An agricultural engineering student who claimed not to know it was an offence to grow her 10 infant cannabis plants in her garden has been given a month to pay €600 to charity in order to receive the benefit of the Probation Act.
The Galway District Court heard that when arrested and questioned the 30-year-old Spanish native had been surprised to be told that it was an offence to grow cannabis plants, as in her home country it is permitted to grow two such plants in a house.
Noelia Ramirez Martin, with an address as Curragh Bui, Rahoon, appeared in court on Monday and pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis plants without a licence on August 31, 2010.
Inspector Mick Coppinger told the court that at 9pm gardai from the drugs unit conducted a search of her house where they found 10 cannabis plants. However, he stressed that the plants were “very much in their infancy, just seedlings”. When interviewed Ms Martin said she did not think it was an offence to grow the plants as in her home country of Spain it is permitted to have two cannabis plants in a house.
“There were 10 plants, so she was five times over the limit even for Spain,” noted Judge Mary Fahy.
Defence solicitor Sean Acton said that her client had been genuinely “surprised by the whole thing”. Mr Acton said that Martin had only been in the country for two months prior to her arrest and that she is a university student from Madrid who came here to learn English. “There was no suggestion she was going to sell them [the cannabis] on. She has never been in trouble before in her life. She was only detained for one hour. Gardai accept her bona fides,” said Mr Acton, who added that the plants had been in her garden.
“So they were not cultivated with lights. There’s a huge industry at the moment,” said Judge Fahy.
“It is not in that league,” said the inspector, who added that Martin has no previous convictions.
Mr Acton explained that Martin is due to return to Madrid in Janaury and that she often travelled abroad to assist in lectures in her chosen field and a conviction could interfere with this work. He then asked Judge Fahy to consider applying the Probation Act.
“She’s going to have to pay one way or another,” replied Judge Fahy, who then noted that Inspector Coppinger had indicated that Martin may not have been 100 per cent aware that what she was doing is wrong. She said that “with reluctance” she would remand the defendant on continuing bail to December 15 next for €600 to be paid to charity and that if this is done then the Probation Act Section 1(1 ) will be applied.