A convicted drug dealer who was unable to do community service because of a shoulder injury was ordered to write a 5,000 word ESSAY on the dangers of drugs instead.
Father-of-two Terry Bennett, 32, was caught with almost a kilo of cannabis and admitted possession with intent to supply.
He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work.
But the probation service later said a longstanding shoulder injury posed a health and safety risk and prevent him carrying out even light work.
Bennett then reappeared in court where Judge Julian Lambert told him to write a 5,000-word essay instead which must be completed by April 4.
If he fails to submit it on time his suspended sentence could be activated and he would be sent to jail.
Bennett, who has no previous convictions, was told to write the essay during an appearance at Bristol Crown Court last Thursday (March 21).
The cheeky former plumber even asked the judge if he could write a ‘balanced’ piece featuring the pros and cons of cannabis – but was firmly slapped down.
He said: “I asked the judge if I could write a balanced argument for and against cannabis, but he said that since it’s illegal, I should only write about the bad things.
“I’m just going to do my best to write about certain dangers caused by cannabis that people might not necessarily know.”
Bennett, who left school at 16 after finishing his GCSEs, has already started his thesis and has been busy researching the topic on the internet.
He said: “Hopefully the essay should be quite good but it’s been ages since I last wrote an essay. I have already done a bit of research.
“I’m going to approach it from a different angle, writing about the dangers that come about because it is illegal, rather than the nature of weed itself.
“Weed often causes more problems because of the social inertia and stigma that surrounds it.
“I’ve got a drugs conviction, so for me to subsequently take on a more serious role in society, it is imperative that I prove to everyone I meet that I’m clean and steering clear of cannabis, purely because it is illegal.”
Bennett, who lives with his mum in the village of Cold Ashton, South Glos., admitted the charges last January but was unable to do the unpaid work.
He suffers from a shoulder injury he suffered during a snowboarding holiday six years ago.
It left his arm separated from his shoulder blade by about half an inch and he now has limited movement in the limb.
“My shoulder is so bad I can’t really do much,” he said. “So it was nice but a bit of a shock to be given such an unusual punishment.”
Bennett believes that many of the problems associated with cannabis are caused by its illegality, rather than the harmful affects of the drug itself.
He added: “If the Government is worried about the health risks, shouldn’t cannabis be made legal so it can be monitored, in much the same way as tobacco and alcohol are?
“Weed can make you paranoid but the fact it is illegal creates more of a barrier for people dealing with cannabis problems.
“By the nature of man, some people develop problems or issues with certain things, and cannabis is no exception.
“Regulation by an official body could help people with cannabis problems. Everybody knows that you can get help quitting smoking or if you’re an alcoholic.
“It would be good if there was no stigma attached to people who want help with weed.”
As well as the essay, which has to be handed in to his probation office, Judge Lambert gave Bennett a four-month curfew order between 8pm and 8am.
He also voluntarily provides samples to be tested for drugs, so social services will allow him access to his two sons, who live with their mothers.
Terry Bennett left school without any qualifications at 15, but later completed five GCSEs and an Art GNVQ.
Terry said: “I left school to work for a removals company, which probably wasn’t the best idea.
“A few years later, I went to college to get some GCSEs.
“I passed art, cookery, English literature, English language and maths, and then I did a GNVQ in Art.
“I’ve always loved writing, and used to write stories from when I was 11, but this is the first time I’ve ever had to write a proper essay.
“I didn’t realise just how much work it would be to get my point across properly.”
Bennett has already started his essay and has formulated five bullet points on which he will base his thesis:
1 – It changes your mentality, and cause psychotic episodes.
2 – The stigma of being associated with cannabis can damage your social standing.
3 – It’s illegal and the money generated is not taxable, meaning it costs the Government rather than being a potential source of revenue.
4 – People get ripped off as unscrupulous dealers up their profit by mixing the drugs with sand and glass.
5 – When consumed in certain ways, most notably being smoked with tobacco, cannabis can cause cancer, especially mouth cancers.