A CANNABIS expert who posted gift sets of the drug to his family was caught when his parcels were sniffed out by staff at a Royal Mail sorting office.

Jason Ayre, said to be a cannabis connoisseur, made up three packages — each containing cannabis, tobacco, cigarette papers and lighters — and sent them through the post as gifts to his ex-partner and two grown-up children in Cornwall.

But the parcels, which were sent on January 12, were intercepted at the Royal Mail sorting office in St Austell two days later and Ayre’s fingerprints were found on the packaging, Bolton Crown Court heard.

On March 14, police raided Ayre’s home in Rawson Road, Farnworth, and found several cannabis plants, cannabis material stuffed into carrier bags and equipment set up to grow the plants in an upstairs bedroom.

Altogether, the seizures had an estimated street value of up to £15,500 and police found £3,900 locked in a safe.

Ayre immediately admitted that he had been growing the drug for up to four years and that he sold it to family and friends.

He was jailed yesterday for two years after pleading guilty to producing and supplying cannabis.

The court heard that 45- year-old Ayre had turned to growing his own plants after being unable to buy the quality of cannabis he wanted locally.

Mark Friend, defending, said: “He is something of an aficionado as far as cannabis is concerned. He has been smoking it for, literally, decades.”

He added that Ayre disliked having to buy his cannabis from people who were dealing in harder substances.

“He therefore took the view that he would grow it in order to know exactly what he was getting,” said Mr Friend.

He added that although Ayre used most of it himself, he would sell some to close friends, ploughing the profits back into cannabis production.

Mr Friend described Ayre as a loner and said his arrest had caused him to be evicted from his council home.

Recorder Nicholas Clarke, QC, sentencing him, said: “Your expertise unfortunately was your downfall.”