A Taoist monk who smoked up to 20 joints a day in a bizarre bid to beat his addiction has been told he must quit cannabis or go to jail.

Michael Martin, 39, who teaches martial arts, said that he had been attempting to give up the Class B drug by overloading his body with the substance.

He had also been practising meditation.

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Martin, who had no previous convictions, told Cleveland Police officers that his addiction cost him £50 a day even though he was unemployed and receiving £140 a fortnight on Jobseeker's Allowance.

Prosecuting, Jacqueline Edwards said that he was caught growing skunk cannabis on April 20 in a bedroom at his home in Wilson Street, Hartlepool , which could have potentially yielded 6,300 joints.

He had 28 plants in individual buckets, as well as nine lamps suspended from the ceiling, nine transformers and a hosepipe for watering leading from a downstairs bathroom.

A police expert said that the plants would have an estimated yield of 1.26kg worth £12,600 at street prices and could have been capable of producing three crops a year with a potential value of £37,800.

He now faces a Proceeds of Crime confiscation case in February next year to assess any benefits he would have received.

Martin estimated that the first crop would have been ready in five to six weeks after the raid.

He said that he did not sell cannabis, and his intention was to smoke it himself instead of buying large amounts of the drug.

He said he began to grow it from seeds in March, and bought the equipment for £400 in Middlesbrough, Teesside Crown Court was told.

Martin Scarborough, mitigating, told the court: "He has battled for some time with an addiction and he has an unusual background.

"He is a Taoist monk, and as part of his faith the way he would see of ridding himself of his addiction is to overload the body with the substance.

"Through that and meditation his body would go through a tunnel, and come out cleansed the other side."

Mr Scarborough added that Martin had references from a doctor who was aware that he teaches martial arts and also from someone who knew the background to his religion.

Judge Peter Armstrong told Martin: "In the references that I have read about you you are spoken of highly as being intelligent, and you practice religious beliefs which should stand you in good stead, but you should obey the law.

"Your plan to get rid of your addiction by overloading yourself with this drug is, I am afraid, not going to happen because if you get involved in any drug taking in the future you are going to be sent to prison."

The judge added: "You are going to have to find a different way out of your problem, and that involves abstinence.

"I sentence you on the basis that you put forward to the police and has been put forward on your behalf, that this was for your own use, and your plan was to try to solve your addiction by overloading yourself with high amounts of this drug."

Martin was given a 12 month community order and 200 hours unpaid work after he pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis.