Cyprus Mail

Hemp farmer to appeal imprisonment

Lawyers have started the appeals process at the Supreme Court for the case of Photis Andreou, the hemp farmer from Avgorou who was jailed last month after being found guilty of importing cannabis with intent to supply.

Crohn’s disease sufferer Andreou, 36, was jailed for five months on June 14 in Larnaca after the court rejected his claim that he used the drug to alleviate the symptoms of his ailment.

The court refused to accept that the 66 grammes of cannabis was for therapeutic or industrial purposes and found Andreou guilty of importing with intent to supply as well as producing a solid green substance from herbal cannabis.

The lawyers are preparing papers to file an outline of the legal arguments. The three-judge panel has given Andreou’s side 30 days to file, and then 30 days to the other side to respond.

The Cyprus Mail has learned that the legal arguments will be mainly based on two facts: Andreou was charged using a law that was defunct or illegal at the time and that the chemical analysis by the state laboratory of the substance in question proved that it was hemp (industrial cannabis). Additional points involving legal procedures and scientific evidence will also come into play.

Local pressure group, Friends of Cannabis Association welcomed the decision to appeal. “We will continue to support Photis throughout the whole trial and appeal process. It’s unthinkable and unbearable to us that a totally innocent person is in jail for possession of hemp that he bought and used legally. Hemp is legal in all of the European Union – Cyprus included! – regardless of the fact that judges, prosecutors, and other petty and ignorant officials choose to pretend that it’s a hard-core lethal drug.” said Petros Evdokas, a founding member of the group.

“He was charged with a law which is itself illegal and therefore invalid. There is already a Judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union stating that all, without exception, local or national laws of EU member states which ban cannabis indiscriminately, without making special allowances for hemp, are illegal. That was the case in Cyprus from 2004 when we joined the EU until April 2016 when the laws on hemp were enacted in Cyprus.”

Evdokas maintains that forms of indiscriminate persecution and prosecution of people for cannabis throughout that whole period are illegal, because the law itself was null and void.

Andreou was previously arrested in May 2015 along with others in a field full of hemp in Avgorou. They, and the person who provided them with the seeds, were arrested and their plants, some 1,600 of them, were destroyed by the drug squad.

Charges were dropped after the farmers threatened to sue the government if their names were not cleared. They said they had a purchase certificate for the seeds, claiming they were hemp. They also had a bill from Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation for a lab analysis on the seeds. The EU encourages the growing of hemp through subsidies, with the crop being used for clothing, biofuel, animal food and other products.

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