May 1, 2001

Grandmother ran cannabis cookery club for neighbours

A retired restaurateur has admitted raising a kitty with other pensioners to buy cannabis which she used in her recipes for "medicinal purposes".

Patricia Tabram, a grey-haired grandmother, turned to the drug in an attempt to offset the effects of tinnitus, mild depression and pains after a car crash.

Patricia Tabram
Patricia Tabram

She began using it in soups, cakes and hot pots in her country kitchen and introduced others to the secret ingredient. Police raided her stone-built cottage in the village of Humshaugh, near Hexham, Northumberland, after a tip-off.

Tabram, 66, was formally cautioned in May last year for possession and cultivation of cannabis after 10in high plants were found growing in her loft. A month later she was caught with 242gms of the drug worth around £850 and self-seal bags for distribution to other people who she declined to name.

She told police that she had clubbed together with a group of elderly people to obtain cannabis for various medicinal reasons. Carl Gumsley, her defence counsel, told Newcastle Crown Court: "She had purchased it on their behalf."

Tabram admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply and sentence was adjourned until March 11 to await reports from a probation officer and psychologist. She appeared in court in spectacles and a black cardigan and was remanded on bail with a condition of residence.

Wearing a woollen shawl in her well-stocked kitchen after the hearing, she said that she was writing a book entitled Grandma Eats Cannabis.

She said: "If they send me to jail I can finish writing my book about the merits of medicinal, herbal cannabis. I want people to know NHS medicines are poisoning them instead of treating their illness. If Jeffrey Archer can write a book in prison, so can I."

Tabram ran the Zodiac Centre restaurant in Edinburgh with her former husband and suffered depression after the death of her 14-year-old son Duncan in 1975. Her second husband died from cancer, she suffers from a lower back injury sustained in a road crash and also has arthritic knees.

She said: "Several friends found out my interest and how I liked to bake it in my food to help ease my ailment. I have taught others how to cook with it."

Tabram admitted to being scared when she first began travelling to Byker, Newcastle, to obtain the drug.

She said: "I had been going by bus to get small amounts at around £20 a time. It was all I could afford as a pensioner. It was used in the cooking. When I got a chance to get more and help out friends, I met a supplier. I hadn't asked them to contribute, they wanted the stuff to help them relieve pain."

Police seized the drug, along with diaries, nail scissors and books, at her home before she had time to distribute it to the people she says had put in around £150 each.

Tabram added: "The first time I had it, it was a friend who gave me a cannabis cigarette, but that only gives you a high for about 30 minutes. I researched it on the internet and found that if you took just a little bit of it with your food the effects last for five hours or more.

"So I started to make cannabis chocolate cake and that covered all the pain I had so well. I cook for everybody, all the neighbours, and I am teaching them so they can cook some of the things themselves.

"The most popular recipes I have are for lemon and lime cheesecake and chicken and leek pie. I want to publish a cook book with all of them in."

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