A PENSNETT man caught growing cannabis, a drug he had used since the age of five, has avoided jail.

Richard Whittaker, aged 27, who has spent his life on benefits, ran a small operation to produce the controlled drug at his home in Tiled House Lane.

At Wolverhampton Crown Court, Judge Nicholas Webb said Whittaker was unwilling to change his lifestyle and if he appeared before a court again on a drugs charge he would almost certainly go straight into custody.

The judge told 27-year-old Whittaker: "You are a persistent user of cannabis and you also use heroin.”

Whittaker admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply and also producing the drug, he was given a nine month jail term suspended for two years.

He was also placed on supervision for a year and told to obey a four month curfew order between the hours of 7pm and 7am.

Richard Atkins, for Whittaker, said his client had first been given cannabis as a five-year-old and he had been addicted to the drug for 22 years.

Mr Atkins said: "He does not drink alcohol - he takes cannabis. He feels it can make people mellow. It has certainly made him particularly mellow."

Howard Searle, prosecuting, said police officers went to Whittaker's home looking for another man but they quickly smelled cannabis inside the property.

In a bedroom they found two cannabis plants growing inside a wardrobe with heating and lighting equipment while in a nearby drawer they recovered a tin containing cannabis buds.

Mr Searle described the system in the wardrobe as “unsophisticated" and added the cannabis would have been worth up to £300.

Officers also found a mobile telephone containing drug related messages, when questioned Whittaker said he had been supplying cannabis for £25 a bag but he had only sold three bags.

Mr Atkins said it was only the second crop cultivated by Whittaker and stressed the incident was "low level" when compared to other cases brought before the court.