A Mangonui man who imported cannabis seeds from Spain and grew them for pain relief has been sentenced to community work.

James Oxton appeared in the Kaitaia District Court last week for sentencing after pleading guilty to importing a Class C drug and cultivating cannabis.

His lawyer Wayne Cribb told Judge Nevin Dawson that Oxton had a serious spinal injury after an accident and used cannabis for pain relief.

Cribb said Oxton did not want to to be exposed to the criminal element of the Far North so imported the seeds.

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Cribb said the seeds were low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the intoxication-inducing element of cannabis - but high in cannabidiol (CBD), the pain-relieving elements.

He said the cannabis was clearly for personal use as pain relief. Oxton consumed it as a tea during the evening or at night to help him sleep as pharmaceutical pain relief did not work for him.

''He was involved in an accident more than 30 years ago that injured his spine, that saw him finish work and go on ACC,'' Cribb said.

He said in Kaitaia cultivating a small amount of cannabis for personal use would generally lead to a fine or community work and Oxton was able to do community work or pay a fine.

''Is there a different tariff in Kaitaia than the rest of the country?'' Judge Dawson asked Cribb.

''In terms of cultivation, if for personal use, while prison can be imposed, it generally isn't,'' Cribb said.

''I understand the imprisonment rate [in Kaitaia for cultivating for personal use] is half what it is in the rest of the country.''

Judge Dawson said it should not be.

Cribb said it could be that the prosecution rate for cultivating cannabis in the area was twice as high as the rest of the country.

Judge Dawson said, given that statistic, perhaps the imprisonment rate should be twice as high in Kaitaia.

The judge noted Oxton pleaded guilty to the charges.

Oxton imported six seeds from Spain in October 2017, and on January 3 this year police searched his home and found five cannabis plants and a seedling, ranging from 50cm to about 150cm tall.

Judge Dawson accepted Oxton was growing them for personal use to deal with his chronic pain. Oxton was sentenced to 80 hours' community work.