A deregistered doctor acquitted of drugs charges for providing sick children with cannabis oil vows to continue his work even if he is arrested again.
Andrew Katelaris successfully argued a medical necessity defence in a four-week trial in the NSW District Court with a jury finding him not guilty.
The 61-year-old represented himself and called the parents of ‘patients’ and medical experts to give evidence that his actions saved lives.
Andrew Katelaris, 61, was acquitted of drugs charges for providing sick children with cannabis oil after he successfully argued a medical necessity defence in a four-week trial
Outside court he said the case would hopefully inch Australia closer to making cannabis oil a legal remedy to treat illnesses like epilepsy.
Known as ‘Dr Pot’, he vowed to continue his work even if it landed him back in a courtroom within weeks facing similar charges.
‘I’ll have this afternoon off but I’ll be back at it in the morning,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘What can you do? If I’m genuine, and I am, in want to save childrens’ lives it would be irresponsible not to continue.
‘If the police are stupid they might arrest me again, but we’ll run the same defence.
‘The idea is they’ll wise up and stop arresting people who are obviously medically focused.
‘This case would have cost the taxpayer tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish nothing.’
Known as ‘Dr Pot’, he vowed to continue his work even if it landed him back in a courtroom within weeks facing similar charges
Mr Katelaris was arrested in May 2017 when police raided his home in Sydney and found 8kg of cannabis oil, 10kg of cannabis leaf, and $10,000 cash.
He was charged with manufacturing and supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, supplying a commercial quantity of cannabis, and dealing with the proceeds of crime and faced up to 20 years in jail.
The raid was days after he showed a Seven News crew a lab in his attic where he manufactured the cannabis oil.
The medical ‘crusader’ said he purposely got himself arrested with enough cannabis to force a jury trial that would be more likely to acquit him.
Mr Katelaris claimed he provoked police into arresting him so he could gain a landmark court victory that could serve as a precedent.
‘I went on TV knowing it would result in an arrest. Hopefully there will now be other cases like this that end the same way,’ he said.
Mr Katelaris needed to show that providing the banned oil was necessary to prevent serious injury or death, that the medical threat was imminent, and that breaking the law was outweighed by benefits.
‘They’re suffering terribly from their disease and drugs they were prescribed by doctors were ineffective,’ he said.
‘They had miraculous recoveries when cannabis oil was applied.’
Mr Katelaris was arrested in May 2017 when police raided his home in Sydney and found 8kg of cannabis oil, 10kg of cannabis leaf, and $10,000 cash
The court heard from parents of children with intractable epilepsy – cases that do not respond to conventional medication.
One mother described the improvement in her daughter’s condition after Mr Katelaris treated her, which was noticed by her pediatrician in 2014.
‘In her case it has been almost miraculous… I can’t speak highly enough of medicinal cannabis,’ she told the court, according to News Regional.
The woman described how her daughter took cannabis oil twice a day, which Mr Katelaris didn’t charge her for, and experienced no side effects.
She was now ‘swimming, doing karate, doing dancing (and) thriving’, and also about to attend a ‘normal school’.
Mr Katelaris also told the court about the case of a desperate father who came to him for help after treatment from doctors failed.
His ‘patients’ also included two anti-vaccine parents who stole their disabled four-year-old boy (pictured with his mother Jacinda ‘Cini’ Walker, 26) from a Brisbane hospital in April 2017
They hid out with Mr Katelaris and his Church of Ubuntu group for days after snatching their child
He said the man was afraid his severely epileptic daughter would die.
‘That is a genuinely held belief on my part. That act that I did was certainly to avoid death or serious injury to the afflicted children,’ Mr Katelaris told the court.
‘This isn’t a theoretical issue that we’re dealing with, it’s a real issue of life and death.’
His ‘patients’ also included two anti-vaccine parents who stole their disabled four-year-old boy from a Brisbane hospital in April 2017.
Marc Alexander Steven, 28, and Jacinda ‘Cini’ Walker, 26, took their son from Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital after he was admitted against their will.
Mr Katelaris said the jury came around to his way of thinking over the course of the marathon trial and took just a few hours to find him not guilty.
‘The evidence from the parents of epileptic children was just too overwhelming [for the jury to convict me],’ he said after being acquitted.
Marc Alexander Steven, 28, and Jacinda ‘Cini’ Walker, 26, took their son from Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital after he was admitted against their will
Mr Katelaris claimed he provoked police into arresting him so he could gain a landmark court victory that could serve as a precedent
The struck off doctor said at the end of the trial the judge advised the jury they should find Mr Katelaris not guilty if they were satisfied there was a medical necessity for his actions.
‘It could have gone pear-shaped but it was a risk worth taking,’ Mr Katelaris said.
Mr Katelaris also raised the concept of jury nullification, where juries can refuse to convict if they feel the law is oppressive, in his closing argument.
He was given bail after his arrest but spent more than six weeks in jail after being re-arrested until he was released again in January.
Supreme Court justices described him as a ‘crusader for the cause of legalisation of cannabis for medical use’ and ‘not a typical drug dealer’.
‘The unusual circumstances of the drug charges and the fact that the applicant is not, in any meaningful sense, a typical ‘drug dealer’,’ they said.
‘[He is] rather a person who has an earnest belief in the medical benefits of cannabis and whose offences were not committed for financial gain but in pursuit of his beliefs.’