A terminally-ill hairdresser has been given a suspended jail sentence for growing her own cannabis plants to help with her sickness.
Lisa Middleton, 44, suffers chronic health conditions including heart failure and used to purchase the drug from a dealer to help with the symptoms.
After money got tight she planted her own pots - five adult plants and around 24 baby ones - strictly for personal consumption, she claims.
She said she knew it was against the law but was at "rock bottom" and felt she had no other options, and needed to control her pain.
But just eight weeks in she was raided by dozens of officers in up to ten police cars, and she was arrested and locked up for six hours before questioning.
It took the police 20 months to charge her with production of a class B drug, and she was sentenced to two years and five months after she was caught.
Now with an 18 month suspended sentence to her name, she said her life has been destroyed by the "pointless" conviction.
‘What I did was entirely victimless’
Lisa, from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, who said she intends to appeal the sentence, said: "It was the first time I had grown it, and I had five adult plants and lots of babies from which I was going to keep the most healthy.
“If I had been done for using it would have just been a slap on the wrist.
“If you are a single woman with health problems you are putting yourself at serious risk every time you have to go to someone’s house, usually a man, to buy cannabis.
“You don’t know who they are or what they are about. You are in their hands, and don’t know if you are going to walk out alive, and that is what I have to do now.
“What I did was entirely victimless.
“I am disgusted that I am apparently a criminal. I am a very moral person with high standards.
“I regularly donate to charity and organise fundraising events, and I donate regular meals to the homeless.
“Now I feel like all my good is overshadowed by having the stigma of being a low-life criminal.
“I am fighting the conviction as far as I can, and we have asked the judge to look again at my sentence.
“There is no reason why I should have been in the same system as murderers and rapists.
“There are police convicted of child sex offences that got less of a sentence than I did."
Started to grow to symptoms more cheaply
Lisa was diagnosed with heart failure in August 2017 and used to buy cannabis to smoke daily.
It helped with the condition and others, including back pain, radial dysplasia, severe spondylosis, circulation problems, nausea, appetite difficulties, stress and anxiety, she said.
But she fell on hard times when the landlord of the building she rented for her hair salon of ten years said she had to leave at short notice.
She had nowhere to store her kit, or run her business, and started to grow her own cannabis, in February 2018, so she could ease her symptoms more cheaply, she said.
But her medical plantation of 56 plants was only two months old when South Yorkshire Police raided her house one morning and arrested her, on April 25 2018, at 9.15am.
It took a further 18 months for the police to charge Lisa, with production of cannabis, in December 2019.
During that time she was released under investigation, and said she was in constant fear and uncertainty, and feared she'd be jailed for up to six years.
Then she had to endure another seven month wait before her case was heard in Sheffield Crown Court.
Lisa said her trial lasted 20 to 30 minutes, and she was finally convicted of production of a class B drug on July 15 2020.
She claims the CPS told her the delay was because they had to keep referring the case back to the police due to insufficient evidence, and due to Covid.
The police responded to her formal complaint by saying they could see no errors, she claims.
Lisa, who now buys from a dealer, said: “This is the most damaging experience I have ever had to endure.
“I’ve used cannabis for medical purposes, to help with pain management, mental health, and circulation, for the last five years.
“I wouldn’t be able to function without it, and there is no legal alternative available to me.
“I started growing because suddenly I had no money and it felt safer than buying it."
Speaking of the trial, she added: "It was so frightening and the whole process has really damaged me.
“I just can’t comprehend how it took them so long, and I will live with the consequences for the rest of my life, because I don’t think I can start up again now.
“I have no previous convictions or dealings with the police.
“Before all this I thought I had the perfect life. I had worked hard and felt like I had achieved the dream. I was so proud of myself.
“My booming business was my sanctuary and my safe place when I left my husband of 16 years and had no home to go to.
Lisa was given an 18 month suspended sentence, a 20 day rehabilitation requirement, and 100 hours community service.