By Dr Gary Potter
Probably, if you are reading this, you think not! Help us gather evidence that may (hopefully) contribute to sensible changes to law and policy.
The traditional view of global cannabis markets is one where cultivation occurs in developing world countries and is imported (smuggled) into the consumer nations of the industrialised, western world. For the UK, and much of the rest of Europe Morocco has been the major source of cannabis, with supplies also coming from the Middle-East, South and South-East Asia, and also the Caribbean and Latin America. However, in recent years this global market has fundamentally changed with more and more domestically cultivated cannabis coming onto the markets of those countries traditionally seen as importers – a process known by economists as ‘import substitution’.
In the UK, it is estimated that domestic cultivation now accounts for as much as 70% of the cannabis consumed in this country. There is an assumption – by the government, by the media, and by the police – that much of the cannabis cultivation in the UK is controlled by organised crime. There are also links drawn, in the media at least, between domestic cultivation, increased potency of cannabis, and an alleged (but unproven) link between this and mental health problems including schizophrenia, cannabis psychosis and addiction.
Are all cannabis growers criminals? Well yes, by strict definition: under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 cannabis growing is criminalised as both production and cultivation of controlled drugs. Growing cannabis plants may also be evidence of possession, supply or intent to supply. However whether all cannabis growers are involved in other types of crime, or in organised drug distribution, or should be subject to criminal penalties are other questions. It seems obvious that laws and policies should be based on evidence rather than media-perpetuated stereotypes; that punishments, when crimes are committed, should be in proportion to harm done rather than being excessive or draconian, and; that the decision by society to label an individual citizen as a ‘criminal’ should not be taken lightly.
Policy makers need a better understanding of who actually grows cannabis in the UK, of how they do it, and of why they do it. This is why I, along with Axel Klein of the University of Kent, am looking for individuals who have grown cannabis in the UK to participate in a (strictly anonymous) online survey. We hope our research will help paint a picture of the realities of cannabis growing in the UK which will feed into future sensible policy making. What is more, we are working with colleagues across the world – the Global Cannabis Cultivation Research Consortium (the World Wide Weed research group) – to conduct similar surveys in a number of countries to see how cannabis cultivation manifests itself under different policy regimes. Ultimately, we believe that people who use cannabis (whether for medical or other reasons) should not be treated as criminals, and neither should people who cultivate cannabis for their own supply, for that of their friends, or that of sick individuals who benefit from the properties of this plant.
To find out more – and to participate in our research – click here. All survey responses are strictly anonymous, we do not ask for any personal data or contact details, and we do NOT record your IP address. For extra security you can always use the anonymous Tor Browser.