Former crisps company executive grew cannabis plants in ‘gardening experiment’

A former crisps company executive caught growing 39 cannabis plants without a licence “essentially for medicinal purposes” has been discharged from the case after meeting the sentencing judge’s conditions.

Anthony Keogh (64), a farmer and a former director of Keogh’s Crisps, grew in his greenhouse the plants which had a total combined value of €7,800.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard he grew the plants “out of some degree of curiosity in relation to them and in relation to curiosity concerning the medicinal benefits of cannabis”.

The court heard this was “simply a gardening experiment”.

The defendant, of Newtown Lane, Oldtown, Co Dublin, came forward on signed pleas of guilty for offences of unlawfully possessing cannabis and cultivating without a licence cannabis plants at his address on July 9, 2020. He has no previous convictions.

On the previous sentence date in July, Judge Melanie Greally said this was “an unusual case in that he grew the plants in question out of some degree of curiosity in relation to them and in relation to curiosity concerning the medicinal benefits of cannabis”.

Judge Greally said this was a very serious error in judgement on his behalf. She said the valuation was based on the plants reaching full maturity, something that is never guaranteed.

She said last July that she proposed to impose a sentence of eight months imprisonment, but she would defer the sentence to Monday. She said if certain conditions were met, she would discharge Keogh forthwith from the charges under the provision of Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Judge Greally said she would require Keogh to enter into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the adjourned period and to make a contribution of €200 to the Father Peter McVerry Trust.

On Monday she noted the conditions had been met and discharged Mr Keogh from the indictment.

In July, Garda Olan Keating told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that gardaí executed a search warrant on the date in question after becoming aware of a suspected cannabis grow house.

Gda Keating said gardaí discovered 39 cannabis plants in a greenhouse at the address. The plants had a total combined value of €7,800.

The defendant arrived at the address during the search, identified himself as the person in charge of the property and admitted he planted the seeds. The garda said Mr Keogh was not somebody on the radar of gardaí and has not come to their attention since.

Gda Keating agreed with Oisin Clarke BL, defending, that none of the plants had reached maturity and the vast majority were seedlings. He agreed there was no concern the plants were ever going to enter drug circulation.

The garda agreed with counsel that the defendant indicated he was growing them “essentially for medicinal purposes” and he wanted to see whether he could use them for medicine. He agreed this was “simply a gardening experiment”.

He agreed that a number of other plants, which were legal and medicinal, were also being grown along with the cannabis. He agreed the defendant accepted he did not have a licence to grow the cannabis plants and that he thought it would be “okay with just a couple plants”.

The garda agreed with counsel that he has no difficulty with Mr Keogh walking away from court without a conviction.

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