Court win for drug doc caught with cannabis
By Sam McKeith
A DEREGISTERED medical practitioner who advocates treating severely ill children with cannabis says he feels "exonerated” after being acquitted of serious drugs charges.
Andrew Katelaris, 63, was charged with three drug offences and dealing with the proceeds of crime after police raided the attic of a Sydney home in May 2017.
A jury on Thursday cleared Mr Katelaris of manufacturing and supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug and supplying a commercial quantity of cannabis.
The charges flowed from a police search on his St Ives residence.
They found 8kg of cannabis oil, 10kg of cannabis leaf and $10,000 cash in an attic "lab”.
His arrest came just days after he featured in a Channel 7 news segment.
On Thursday, after a three-week trial, a jury at Downing Centre District Court found Mr Katelaris not guilty on all charges.
Mr Katelaris had been defending himself at the trial on the basis of medical necessity.
During the trial, he described himself as a "leading authority” in treating severely ill children, especially those with "intractable epilepsy”, with medicinal cannabis.
The trial heard that he was an opponent of "draconian” drug laws who had been involved with industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis since the late 1980s.
He argued in court that his conduct was done to avoid "a greater harm” that was imminent to those he treated and that it was "proportionate to the good achieved”.
He referred to one case where a father, scared his severely epileptic daughter would die, came to him for help after conventional medicine failed.
He also called evidence from a mother who said the life of her daughter, who suffered severe seizures, had been "transformed” after being treated by the former doctor.
At one point, he urged the jury to be "servants of justice” not "slaves to the law”.
Outside court, Mr Katelaris said his acquittal was "belated recognition” of the work he did.
"I feel significantly exonerated,” he told NewsRegional.
"I feel happy for the children that we treat because this is another step towards them getting quality herbal cannabis not under the aegis of a registered medical practitioner.
"I think a number of really important issues were ventilated here and that's whether a doctor should have the sole power to actually prescribe cannabis or whether it's treated as a safe and highly effective herbal preparation, that's the way it should be.”
He said he felt relieved after facing the prospect of life in prison if found guilty.
"Theoretically it was life imprisonment, but that's only because of the ridiculous way they've formed the laws.” - NewsRegional