December 24, 2004 10:38

A CANNABIS grower got into the festive spirit by disguising one of his plants — as a Christmas tree.

But catering assistant Ben Ollis was feeling anything but cheery when he was hauled before Norwich magistrates yesterday.

Twenty-five-year–old Ollis, of Octagon Court, Norwich, was convicted of growing cannabis plants and ordered to pay a £100 fine and £45 costs.

Police were sent to his home with a search warrant after receiving a tip-off from a gas man who had been working there on December 16.

Ollis answered the door within seconds and told the officers "I've been
expecting you."

The officers found a total of five plants, with one in the living room decorated with Christmas lights.

Prosecutor Gary Mayle said the police could smell the strong odour of cannabis and Ollis asked them "You want to know where the cannabis are, don't you?"

As well as the plant in the lounge, another four were found growing in a cupboard with the assistance of fans and lights.

When he was interviewed, Ollis said he started cultivating the plants after reading how to do it on the Internet. The drug was for his own personal use and growing it saved him money.

Yesterday, the magistrates also ordered the destruction of the plants and equipment being used to grow them.

Simon Nicholls, for Ollis, said he knew the police were coming because a gas man had been in his home earlier.

Despite realising what was going to happen he did nothing to try to conceal the plants.

He used cannabis recreationally but did not really want to have anything to do with drug dealers.

"He takes the view it is not really hurting anybody. As it is only for personal use it is probably a better way to do it."