A market trader who operated a cannabis farm in Wales claimed he needed the growth as he drinks a lot of cannabis tea for health reasons.

Thomas Anthony Birchall, aged 51, of Leicester Street, said he used 4g of cannabis a day, which he drank in tea to aid his asthma, the pain from his slip disc and other conditions.

Mold Crown Court heard on Tuesday how Birchall rented an industrial unit from Conwy Borough Council in North Wales.

Following complaints over the smell of cannabis coming from the unit, council officers raided it to find 109 plants.

They found that the electricity meter had been by-passed and that there were five zones under lighting including mature plants, a mother plant, and cuttings or seedlings.

Prosecuting, Brett Williamson suggested that the estimated street value of the potential yield was between £30,500 and £91,000.

Jonathan Austin, defending, said up to two thirds of the seedlings might fail.

Birchall pleaded guilty to production of a class B drug.

He attempted to submit a basis of plea, claiming the cannabis was only for personal use.

That was rejected by Judge Rhys Rowlands. He said: “I don’t accept that you were growing that much cannabis for yourself.

“I have no doubt at all that some of these plants would have been sold on.”

Birchall was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place at a later date, to decide how much of Birchall’s ill gotten gains can be confiscated.