A father who grew cannabis to help improve the life of his critically ill son has said he was prepared to go to jail if it helped his child.
Chris McDaid was caught by gardaí at a growhouse at a rented house in Donegal surrounded by up to 100 plants and plant cuttings. He faced years in jail if found guilty of cultivating the plants.
McDaid pleaded guilty to possession of the plants under the Misuse of Drugs Act and appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court.
He told Judge Martin Nolan he had a good reason for growing the plants in October 2015 — they were
to help improve the quality of life of his son Cian, who has ataxia-telangiectasia (AT), a rare neurodegenerative disorder for which there is no cure.
Now aged 10, Cian suffers from severe tremors and slurred speech, factors his father hoped could be helped by using medicinal cannabis.
Judge Nolan said it was obvious McDaid, aged 33, was not growing the plants for monetary gain.
He sentenced him to a year in prison, suspended for a year, meaning McDaid will not have to spend any time behind bars.
Last night, McDaid said he was simply glad his ordeal was over — but that he would do it all over again if it helped his son.
He explained how the type of cannabis seed he was cultivating did not lend itself to giving the user a high.
He first got the idea to help his son after following the challenges faced by a Canadian family, the Thompsons. Their video blogs showed how medicinal cannabis helped their two children.
McDaid, from Foyle Springs, Co Derry, never told his family what he was planning but set in motion his plans to grow the plants in a rented house over the border in Carrigans, Co Donegal.
Unknown to McDaid, undercover gardaí were watching his every move.
McDaid, who has a degree in marine science, said that although he knew he could be caught, being confronted by armed gardaí was a terrifying experience.
“I knew the risk I was taking and I knew there was always a chance that I would be caught growing the plants and I was,” he said.
“Although I knew it, I was still shocked when the gardaí did arrive, especially as some of them were heavily armed.
“I was taken to Letterkenny Garda Station and I spent three nights there before being taken to Sligo to court.
“I told the gardaí that I was growing it for my son but they didn’t want to know. However, the one thing I will say about the gardaí is that they treated me really well when I was in custody.”
He appeared in court in Letterkenny last week and he was lucky to have appeared before a judge who let him explain his situation.
“I think he looked at it reasonably and realised that I was being genuine,” said McDaid.
He said he is leaving his arrest behind him but is realistic that his son’s quality of life will continue to diminish. During the court case, it was revealed how the maximum lifespan for sufferers of AT is 25, but for Cian, it is likely to be closer to 18. However, the latest medical review showed he was “probably looking at less than that”.
McDaid said he is hopeful that Health Minister Simon Harris is continuing to examine the benefits of cannabis for medicinal use.
As he lives just across the border, McDaid said he could be moving to Donegal if the Government ever acted on legislation which outlaws all cannabis.
“On a serious note, I would love if the day came when the Government did look at individual cases and to examine the benefits which cannaboids bring to improve the quality of the lives of so many people,” he said. “I’m just hoping that Cian can benefit from them that day.”
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