MALCOLM Ronald Lee was not your ordinary drug manufacturer and supplier.
He wasn’t motivated by greed, but altruism. He didn’t do it for financial gain, but to alleviate the pain and suffering of others. And he did not distribute to addicts, but the terminally ill and those in severe pain.
“And while what my client did was illegal, perhaps it was not immoral,” Lee’s barrister John Booth told Newcastle District Court on Friday.
Lee, 66, of Islington, dispensed cannabis oil the same way a doctor prescribes legitimate medication, the court heard. And he did so at either cost price or for no charge, putting any money he gained back into the operation.
And Lee’s medicinal marijuana methods were so successful that he was not surprised when word got around and the police came knocking.
“I guess it is fairly clear from that that he knew the risks he was running, but nevertheless it seems that his motivation to help others overrode his own self-preservation,” Newcastle District Court Judge Roy Ellis said.
That self-preservation was put to the test on Friday when Lee was sentenced for manufacturing a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
But Judge Ellis found there were exceptional circumstances and noted Lee would be a good candidate to help with the state government’s terminal illness cannabis scheme.
“Given he has the necessary skills and the product he has produced seems to have done a great job for a number of those who have had the benefit of it,” Judge Ellis said.
He sentenced Lee to a two-year good behaviour bond, a ruling that provoked a sigh or relief and even a few claps from a packed gallery of Lee’s supporters.
Mr Booth pointed out a flaw in the state government’s current terminal illness cannabis scheme, in that eligible individuals were expected to source the cannabis themselves.
“There is a tacit approval by the government . . . that people are going to have to get the material and they are going to have to get it by illegal means,” Mr Booth said. “They are going to have to find someone that will be the source. And my client, Mr Lee, took that upon himself.
“This is a man who was devoting his retirement, as it were, to alleviating the suffering of other people.
“This is a very extraordinary case, where a man is doing something that maybe two years, three years, 14 years down the track will be completely legal.”
The prosecution accepted the case was so unique it did not call for a custodial sentence and pointed out there was no harm done to the community and no profit made.
When he was much younger Lee had watched his mother die in terrible pain from cancer of the pancreas only to discover the benefits of cannabis oil a short time later.
He has dedicated the rest of his life to learning more and began growing the plants and manufacturing and selling the oil to help those in need. But he says he is done making oil and is going to focus on educating.
“I don’t need to [make it] any more,” Lee said outside of court.
“Everyone thought they were going to die when I got arrested, but the word has spread and they are doing it themselves.
“If I went to jail then I would have just had to educate them from the bottom up. Now it can be the top down.
“Now that the judge has told me he thinks I should be helping with the cannabis scheme that is my next goal.
“There is no stopping me now.”