A 42-year-old man who claimed that the powdered plant derivative found at his apartment in Cork could be extracted from a cactus plant commonly bought in flower shops was found guilty of having mescaline for sale or supply.
The jury, who were unable to reach a verdict on Tuesday, resumed their deliberations yesterday and eventually returned unanimous guilty verdicts after a total of four hours of deliberation.
Alexander Rojas Rey was found guilty of possession of mescaline and possession of it for sale or supply contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act at his apartment at River Towers, Lee Road, Cork, on January 23, 2018.
Defence barrister Peter O’Flynn produced a cactus plant during the trial and said it had been purchased for €35 at a plant shop in Cork city. He said it was not illegal to buy it or sell it, and that the powder found in the defendant’s possession contained nothing more than was also to be found in the cactus plant.
A lot of the facts of the case were not disputed between the parties. The key issue between them was whether or not the substance was a proscribed drug.
Dermot Sheehan, prosecution barrister, submitted to the jury:
"It was dry plant material… and that it is a substance containing mescaline.” Mr Sheehan said mescaline is a proscribed drug.
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. He 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 James 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.”
Mr Sheehan said there was no objection to him being remanded on continuing bail pending sentence.
Mr O’Flynn said the accused had been living in Ireland for ten years, was in full-time employment and had no previous convictions. Judge McCourt remanded him on bail until June 26 for sentence.