Drug could be got from €35 cactus, court told

A 42-year-old man was put on trial for possession of mescaline for sale or supply but the defence claimed that the material could be derived from a cactus bought legally at any plant shop in Cork for €35.

Alexander Rojas Rey pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of mescaline and possession of the substance for sale or supply contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act at his apartment at River Towers, Lee Road, Cork, on January 23, 2018. A lot of the facts of the case were not disputed between the parties. The key issue was whether the substance was a proscribed drug.

Dermot Sheehan, prosecution barrister, submitted to the jury:

The prosecution case is that there is no view available to you other than that the mescaline is in the powder. It was dry plant material… and that it is a substance containing mescaline.

And Mr Sheehan said that mescaline was a proscribed drug and was on the list of such drugs.

Peter O’Flynn, defence barrister, reminded the jury that the defence was able to go into any plant shop and buy such a cactus. He said they had done so and bought a cactus for €35, which was brought to Cork Circuit Criminal Court. The defence barrister said the State’s expert witness said the plant contained mescaline.

Mr O’Flynn said the State could remedy the situation simply by adding to the list of prohibited substances any cactus containing mescaline but had not done so. The defence barrister said the defendant stated that he drinks a tonic made from hot water and the material with which he was found.

Mr O’Flynn said: “There has been no evidence of him profiting in any way from being in possession of this plant material. I say you have to have a doubt about him being in possession of a controlled drug.”

Judge McCourt brought the jury out to clarify: “The accused admits he was in possession of a substance. His defence is that the substance was not a controlled drug within the meaning of the law.”

A man on the jury was discharged as he was unable to return to Cork Circuit Criminal Court for the trial yesterday. By agreement of all parties the case proceeded before a jury of 11 — seven men and four women.

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