British man could face 15 years in Indonesian prison after being caught with cannabis oil

Will Metcalfe
Contributor
Pip Holmes, who was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking, when he received a package of cannabis oil in Bali on December 3.

A British man says he could face up to 15 years in an Indonesian prison after being found with cannabis oil which he claims he needed for medical reasons.

Pip Holmes, from Cornwall, was arrested for drug smuggling when he went to collect a package containing the oil on December 3.

The 45-year-old artist says he asked a friend to send it to him while he was living in Bali to help his arthritis.

But Indonesia has strict drugs laws and frequently sees foreigners arrested and paraded before the media on drug-related charges.

Artist and surfer Pip Holmes could face 15 years in an Indonesian prison after being caught with cannabis oil. (Handout).

Mr Holmes says he was aware of the penalties and his actions were “foolish and dumb”.

After spending six days in a police cell, Mr Holmes was transferred to a police hospital rehabilitation facility as his lawyers argued he was a drug user – after he failed a drugs test – rather than a trafficker.

However, he is still facing a drug trafficking charge and was paraded in front of the cameras last week for what he calls a “very surreal and bizarre” news conference.

He sat alongside four other men accused of drug smuggling, which can carry the death penalty in Indonesia.

Despite reports that Mr Holmes could be facing that punishment, he believes the small quantity of drugs found on him means that is not the case.

He told the BBC: “I just wanted to stand up and say I’m really not in this category, but the law is very different here and it’s very harsh.

“It feels like a great injustice, but I’m not in the UK, I’m in Bali, so it’s my own fault.”

In the UK medicinal cannabis products can be legally prescribed to some patients after rules were relaxed earlier this year – although access is very limited.

The father of two, whose 11-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter live in the UK with his ex-wife, has had arthritis for eight years and says it was caused by years of practising Thai boxing.

He says: “Marijuana makes a considerable difference to the pain – it’s not a leisure activity for me.”

“I knew what I was getting into,” he says. “I knew there were very strict laws but I chose to come here anyway because the surf is the best in the world.”

Indonesian law does not recognise medical marijuana use.

At his next court date, expected in January, Mr Holmes is hoping to be classed as a marijuana addict and be eligible for a rehabilitation sentence.

A Foreign Office statement said: “Our staff are assisting a British man following his arrest in Bali, and are in contact with his family, lawyer and the Indonesian authorities.”

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