The owner of an e-cigarette shop who also sold cannabis seeds told a court they were collector’s items.
People wanted to collect them, like people collected stamps, so they would have seeds available if cannabis was legalised in the future, he explained.
Michael David Lyon, 37, also sold bongs, cigarette papers, lighters with the cannabis motif on them together with grinders, stash boxes and smoking pipes.
He said it was not illegal to sell them because he did not believe they would be used for an illegal purpose.
In fact, he said he had thrown customers out if they indicated they wanted to grow cannabis.
A court heard how he had a disclaimer on the counter of his Vape Ape shop in Victoria Road, Saltney, advising customers that such items could not be used for illegal purposes.
But prosecutor Alun Humphreys told Flintshire magistrates’ court at Mold that the notice ‘was not worth the paper it was written on’.
He accused Lyon of operating a ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ system because it was a case of ‘don’t ask me, I know what you are going to use it for, but don’t tell me’.
Lyon, a father of two from Celyn Crescent in Saltney, denied supplying articles to administer drugs unlawfully in August of last year, but was convicted.
He was fined £600 with £460 costs – with an additional £200 for possessing a small amount of cannabis in his vehicle, which he admitted.
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The defendant left court saying he was trying to make an honest living at his alternative lifestyle shop, which sold many other things.
He confirmed the cannabis items were still for sale in the shop but said he would have to stop selling them following the court’s verdict.
Police executed a search warrant last August and found cannabis seeds and memorabilia.
There were dancing cannabis plants, cannabis ice cube trays, cannabis lighters, cannabis stash boxes, bongs, pipes, grinders, odour snap bags, digital scales, a variety of cannabis seeds.
Magazines Weed World and Spliffs, a Celebration of Cannabis Culture and catalogues detailing the virtues of various varieties.
There were cannabis posters on the wall and a notice on the counter said: “Nothing that we sell is for the purpose of taking an illegal drug.
“Please don’t ask any questions which lead us to believe that you intend to use any of our products illegally. It will then be a criminal offence to sell them to you. Please respect our position.”
But Mr Humphreys described that as simply ‘a smoke screen’. He said that it was ‘worthless, a token gesture’.
Diagnosed with cancer
Lyon told how he started using cannabis five years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer and it helped him get through the treatment.
The defendant said he opened ‘a smoking shop’ and the items he sold were available openly from the wholesalers and were sold by 70 or 80 similar shops in Britain and by hundreds online.
It was a legitimate business and the cannabis side was only a small part of his £2,000 a week turnover. He also sold e-cigarettes and liquids, clothes, hats, candles, aroma therapy oils, handmade wooden collectables, canvass photographs, incense burners, shoes, scarves and jewellery.
He described it as an alternative life-style shop and said the disclaimer notice had been produced by the Alternative Trade Association. “It makes it clear that if I think they are going to be used for illegal purposes I cannot sell them,” he explained.
Bongs were used for flavoured tobacco and the grinders and cigarette papers were sold in supermarkets nationwide.
The grinders were used for herbs and tobacco, he said, but agreed he did not sell herbs.
'Everything is completely legal'
Police had been searching for class A and B drugs but there were none on the premises. “Everything is completely legal,” he claimed.
He agreed he sold ‘legal highs’ but said they were collectors’ items, not to be used.
Lyon said he had increased the age limit to 21 at the shop after police told him that a legal high had been found near a school, in case someone bought them for someone younger than themselves.
The seeds were for collectors in readiness for a time when cannabis could be legalised.
Cross-examined, he agreed he was not an ecologist and conceded the literature at the shop was on growing seeds, not storing them for the future.
Brian Cross, defending, described it as something of a test case and said his client did not sell anything illegal. He could not be held responsible for what people later did with them. To be guilty of the charge he had to believe they were going to be used to administer controlled drugs.
Magistrates said they found the case proved – the items would be used for illegal purposes and the disclaimer notice was the defendant trying to cover his back. He knew what was going on, they said.