By Richard Shrubb
Man given a flat when a hard drug addict. Now being evicted for using weed for pain relief.
42 year old Seth Skip-Thacker had a £100 a day heroin and crack addiction and lived on the streets when he was housed by his local housing association in 2005. The Basingstoke housing association knew of his problems since the local Prolific Offenders Team had taken him under their wing and offered him a way out of his personal hell.
At New Year’s, 2005 he hit rock bottom. Feeling he had nothing left to lose he jumped out of a third floor flat in an attempt to end it all. Instead he broke his ankle and made the decision to clean up for good. Seth has been clean of hard drugs and alcohol for the last 9 years.
The blessing of leaving a life of crime and hard drugs behind was also a curse. The doctors gave him Oxycontin for his injury, a strong opiate that in Seth’s experience, only works for a short time. He says, “it is addictive too so you need more and more for less and less of an effect. I now only take it to maintain the addiction to the opiates rather than go through the misery of detoxing from a drug that the doctor prescribed me.”
Desperate to find a way of treating his pain, Seth found his way to cannabis. Prescribed and legal for pain relief in many liberal countries, in his opinion it is “natural, non addictive and works. The doctor said she would give it to me if she could”.
Given the choice between street weed which has no guarantee as to what phytocannabinoids are in there, or growing his own, Seth grew ten plants of the right breed to tackle his pain. He says of his grow, “I used eco lights and wasn’t nicking electricity off the grid, and only gave the plants organic feed so I could get the best out of them. I was quite good at it in the end!”
Sadly his peace and harmony of self medication and self reliance would come to an end. At an early stage in his tenancy he fell out with his upstairs neighbour, a hard drug user and criminal. She made continual complains about his cannabis use despite allegedly using that and far worse herself on a regular basis. He says, “I eat my cannabis and don’t smoke it. She often stinks out the hallway with her joints and when the police knock on my door they smell it and assume it is me when it isn’t!”
Seth is regularly harassed by the police due to his past. One time they stopped and searched him and found some weed on him. They then used Section 18 powers to raid his home and found the grow. The housing association, despite housing him while off his head on smack and crack, took a hard line on his cannabis use. Presuming he would be sent to jail they attempted a Possession Order while he was on remand. Thankfully the judge saw differently and gave him Probation.
The apparently Daily Mail reading housing association were on the back foot and could only give him a 2 year Suspended Possession Order. Under the rules he was not allowed to possess or consume drugs on the premises. The neighbour complained at ‘his cannabis use’ and Seth says, “the police kicked the door through and found £10 worth of weed”.
Seth, rehoused as a hard drug user and criminal who stole £700 worth of goods a week to maintain his habit, is being evicted for consuming weed he buys using his disability benefits as pain relief. “I’m frightened of life on the street. This is a life or death situation for me. I’m off drugs and now face losing everything”.
Sadly there isn’t much the system can do to help him as he broke a binding contract not to possess or consume a drug that is illegal in the UK. Chris Bovey of NORML UK says, “he is a victim of prohibition. This is an outrageous waste of police time and resources to discriminate against this person for using safe medicine which is legal in much of the rest of the world including around 20 US states”.