Elderly man defends growing pot - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Elderly man defends growing pot

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DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) -

The Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office arrested a 73-year-old DeRidder man on April 10 for growing marijuana in his home.

Johnny Niel, 73, said he's suffering from back pains and pains from prostate cancer. Because of this, he's lost a lot of weight. The medicine he is takes causes him to have a loss for appetite and gives him nausea.

"I would rather be on pot than be on oxycontin and oxycodone," Niel said.

After being tipped off, BPSO found at least 24 healthy marijuana plants in his home.

"I was growing lowrider, sour diesel, kush and skunk," he said.

And for Niel, smoking pot helped with his symptoms.

"It changes my attitude. I kind of, like, forget about the cancer and bad things. It gives me an appetite and it helps me sleep," Niel said.

But he knew what he was doing when he decided to grow the marijuana plants. Niel said he smoked weed for the first time as a teenager in the 1950s and continued to smoke it off and on throughout his life. He reads High Times magazine and said he was busted for marijuana possession in 1990.

"I knew I was breaking the law. And I knew if they found them, they would take them. I didn't want to lose them, I mean, I didn't mind the plants being gone, but I didn't like losing the weed that I had," he said.

Niel said he never sold the marijuana he grew. It was strictly for medicinal purposes. Niel said medicinal marijuana should be legal in Louisiana.

"If there's some way that the government can put it on the books for medical use, if nothing else. At least give me an opportunity to go to something besides a narcotic," he said. "You look at the bottle and it says 'poison.' Can't be too good for you. And I've been on it for like 12-13 years."

And at 73 years of age, Niel wants something that will help ease the pain.

"In my condition, I need something to calm me down, not raise me up," Niel said.

Even though law enforcement confiscated his stash, Niel will continue to take his prescribed medication.

"I've got a pill to put me to sleep and I've got a pill to kill the pain, but I don't have anything to make me hungry," Niel said.

When asked if he will continue to smoke marijuana, Niel said "it's pretty tough if you don't have it." 

BPSO arrested and charged Niel with manufacturing and distributing marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and illegal carrying of a weapon.

Niel bonded out of the parish jail on a $52,000 bond. 

According to the Beauregard Parish District Attorney's Office, at this time, there is no date set for Niel's arraignment.

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