Home-grown cannabis outstrips imports from Morocco
Published by The Guardian – Monday 21 April, 2003
Copyright: The Guardian
The majority of cannabis now consumed in England and Wales has not been smuggled in but is actually grown here, according to a study to be published next month.
The research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals that there has been a sharp rise in recent years in domestic cultivation, particularly in home-grown cannabis for personal use.
It appears a new breed of British gardener has emerged. But rather than messing about in the back garden they spend their time in the cupboard under the stairs tending their plants. In their case the answer doesn’t lie in the soil but in trays of water under lights as their crop is produced hydroponically, without soil.
It has become such a popular pastime that for the first time domestically cultivated cannabis has overtaken Moroccan hash or resin as the major product in the British cannabis market. At least 3 million people a year now use the drug.
The rise in home-grown British “grass” has led to a thriving legal business in cannabis seed, which is available from UK-based seed companies, and specialist growing equipment which is legally available from gardening outlets, “hydroponic growshops”, and over the internet.
The research by South Bank University’s criminal policy research unit and the national addiction centre at Kings College, London, is partly based on interviews with 37 home cultivators, mainly men in their 20s and 30s. Most had jobs or were students.
It says that the government’s strategy of focusing on the more harmful drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, means there is now a strong case for the law to treat the small-scale cultivation of cannabis for personal use or use by friends in the same way as simple possession, and only attract a fine or warning. The
study says this would not clash with Britain’s obligations under international drug treaties.
The research identified five types of cannabis growers in Britain, but says many of them did it to ensure quality of product, to save money, or as a way of avoiding contact with dealers. There is a wide variety of growing technique.
There has been a trend to use premium seeds rather than imported cannabis bush seeds, and to grow them under more lights, with an average of 4.5 bulbs generating 1067 watts, compared with two bulbs pumping out 421w four years ago.
The types identified were:
· Sole-use growers: cultivate cannabis as a money-saving hobby, for personal use. Have 12 to 24 plants, using natural fertilisers and soil mixtures more often than hydroponics.
· Medical growers: motivated by perceived therapeutic value. All those interviewed were supplying multiple scelerosis sufferers and had been charged by police.
· Social growers: grow to ensure good-quality supply for themselves and their friends. They give it away or charge nominal price. Average two dozen plants.
· Social/commercial growers: grow for profit but restrict sales to social networks. Motivation is to supplement income. Have between two and 100 plants.
· Commercial growers: sell to any customer. Grow their own crops to guarantee high quality to secure supply and premium prices. All use hydroponics. One said he earned £2,500 a month out of it.
The study says police forces differ in how they deal with cultivators. Some are cautioned, some charged with trafficking under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act which on third conviction carries a minimum seven year sentence, and others are charged with the lesser offence of cultivation.
The report says there were 1,960 cannabis production offences in the UK in 2000, with just under a quarter dealt with by police caution. The rest went to court, with 240 ending in a prison sentence.
Mike Hough, of South Bank University, said the study showed that if the government treated cultivation for personal use in a similar way to possession,and introduced administrative fines for non-commercial cultivation, it could be done within the limits of UN drug conventions.