Pastor, friends look on as court locks up God-fearing farmer

WITH three prior convictions for producing marijuana, James Bigbee ran out of chances to avoid jail when he admitted to the same offence again.

An Ipswich court heard the US-born, God-fearing man had been convicted multiple times for possession of marijuana.

The Crown successfully argued Bigbee had used up his chances.

Seated in the dock of Ipswich District Court, James Paul Bigbee, 52, a refrigeration business owner and farmer from Redbank Plains, had a group of family and supporters including his church pastor sitting behind him.

The court heard Bigbee used marijuana for pain relief.

Bigbee pleaded guilty to three Crown charges that he unlawfully produced the dangerous drug marijuana at Redbank Plains on September 28, 2017; unlawfully possessed the dangerous drug; and possessed material including electrical equipment, lights and fertilisers that were used in a drug crime.

Crown prosecutor Cassandra Wilson said despite the opportunities the court had given Bigbee in the past, he had not desisted from growing the illegal drug for personal use.

Ms Wilson said when police raided his home in September 2017, officers found 22 small marijuana plants in a shed and 13 mature plants, some more than 1.5m tall.

A large quantity of chopped marijuana was found in a bowl and fridge, and 38 plants were in a demountable building along with 1.852kg of marijuana.

Defence barrister Robert Carroll said Bigbee had been self-medicating for depression and anxiety disorders, pain, and other ailments as a result of childhood traumas.

References were made to his unusual childhood.

Defence argument was that Bigbee had a serious addiction to marijuana.

Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC took exception to the marijuana Bigbee grew as being described as medical marijuana.

He also queried a reference to Bigbee having "a chronic addiction to cannabis he just can't shake".

Judge Horneman-Wren said Bigbee arrived in Australia in 1987 and for more than two decades had used and produced marijuana.

In one medical report he told the doctor: 'I'm not a drug addict.

"I'm a user of drugs for medical purposes. I don't do it for the high."

Judge Horneman-Wren said Bigbee seemed to have adopted the view that the drug laws didn't apply to him.

Judge Horneman-Wren found Bigbee had chosen not to use other methods to manage his pain.

Noting that he had not previously served jail time after being given leniency by the courts, Judge Horneman-Wren sentenced Bigbee to a total of two years' jail, with parole release on September 4.