A 45-year-old Columbian man who tried to treat his cancer with dried cactus plant as used by indigenous tribes of the Amazon was prosecuted for having the drug for sale or supply at his home in Cork.
Defence senior counsel Elizabeth O’Connell said it was an unusual drugs case in that the defendant had the material sent to his home believing it was perfectly legal and intending to use it for entirely medicinal purposes.
Following a lengthy legal process involving a trial, conviction and successful appeal, Alexander Rojas Rey ultimately pleaded guilty to possession of mescaline for sale or supply contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act at his apartment at River Towers, Lee Road, Cork, on January 23, 2018.
Ms O’Connell SC said the accused had been diagnosed with cancer around this time and opted to use “treatments of indigenous tribes in the Amazon and he offered it to other people as well…
Judge Helen Boyle said she did not want it to go out that this was a suitable treatment for cancer as an alternative to mainstream contemporary medical treatment. She asked if the defendant accepted that it was something to be used in addition to mainstream treatment and he indicated that he did accept that.
In all the circumstances of the unusual case, the judge agreed to give the accused the benefit of a dismissal under the Probation of Offenders Act.
Ms O’Connell SC said, “He has no convictions – before or since.”
At the original trial in 2019 the jury 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.
During that trial, 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 that plant, 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. The verdict was successfully appealed and listed for retrial but the defendant indicated a guilty plea at that stage.