By Kit Wood
Last week, Lancashire couple Michael Foster and Susan Cooper were dubbed by the media as the “Robin Hood Couple”, after being sentenced to 3 years each in prison on charges of cannabis production and possessing criminal money. The couple are said to have accumulated around £400,000 over six years by growing a large number of cannabis plants in their farmhouse, selling the produce to a local dealer and using the money to help a village in Kenya which they visited regularly.
The court heard that the couple had paid for life-saving surgeries, provided a computer for an eye hospital and had given many children in the village near Mombasa the chance at an education. The judge remarked “I am sure you were doing good things in Kenya with your drugs money, whether that was to appease your consciences I can only speculate.”
First of all there is no such thing as “drugs money” … there is only money. Secondly, regarding the claim that there is no crime without a victim – in fact, as with most cases of cannabis cultivation, there are no victims until law enforcement interferes. Ms Cooper and Mr Foster are victims not of their own crime but of the infringement of their human rights by the three year sentence handed down by Lincoln Crown Court.
Yes, cultivation in the UK is against the law. But the sentencing of this couple seems to be a case of upholding laws regardless of circumstances, with no regard for the special nature of the case or the couple’s charitable giving. The couple have been labelled as criminals and given a sentence reflecting the outdated opinion and unmerciful nature of the Judge who even made claims against the defendant Mr Foster’s mental health, insinuating that his cannabis habit may have led to the psychosis which contributed to his crimes claiming ”Cannabis does that, it is a dangerous drug too often belittled.”
The prohibition of cannabis is wrong. A six year study of expert witnesses and testimonials concluded recently that “cannabis was no more harmful than gambling or fast food” and that “possession of small amounts of cannabis and small personal grows should be decriminalised.” With that in mind, what crime did Michael Foster and Susan Cooper really commit? They traded a relatively harmless product with a dealer whose money was then out of his hands. They then took that money and travelled frequently to a small village in Kenya to personally deliver aid in the form of life saving operations, equipment for a hospital, and an education for many of the children there. This was a crime?
The same anti-cannabis user argument is used time and time again: “but it’s illegal!” I find this an unfortunate sign that too many people just accept laws without question. Too many people willingly give away their rights for the illusion of security. We need to realise that laws can be changed, made-up… and abolished.
NORML UK is therefore calling for the release of the couple who risked their own freedom to help others. Good, charitable people are behind bars while dangerous criminals walk the streets enjoying the freedoms Mr Foster and Ms Cooper deserve. The time to decriminalise is now.