Should cannabis growers be treated as criminals?

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.

Should cannabis cultivation in the UK be a criminal offence?

Cannabis cultivation in the UK.

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.

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  1. I think it misleading to merely say these activities are criminalised by the Misuse of Drugs Act – the beauty of the legislation is it’s flexibility and sensible ethos to address anti-social outcomes. It is the mis-administration of the Act that is the problem, and that is due to the failure to utilse sections 7, 22 and 31 to regulate these activities properly. It is not the Act that is to blame, but the government’s misuse of it and the court’s inability to construe the law and apply proper common law and human rights principles to it.

    Focussing on cannabis might prove efficacious, but it’s missing the point – it’s not the only the administration of law on cannabis that’s wrong, but the way we approach the whole subject. We should start by addressing outcomes (ie persons) not drugs, rather than believe in this reverse way of thinking that aims to regulate drugs. Drugs have no agency, we shouldn’t talk about one or the other, but how all people respond with respect to all harmful substances.

  2. well said Darryl Bickler, the fundamental human rights is far more important than mere statutory regulation, unfortunately there is evidence to show a financial interest in hindering the legalisation of the substance. The freemarket has always been manipulated and evident through the private banking bailouts.

    I have seen some magistrates reprimanded through the lord chief justice for taking biased views on the substance with no real evidence.

    Common law applies strictly to sovereigns it seems, statutory law is consented by your ID, UK passport, drivers license etc. this application of law needs to be changed.

    You cannot ruin peoples lives and families for victimless crimes. the judges are loosing the trust of the public and only due to gain it through fear. this will breed a bad environment for problems unless tackled by people willing to stand up. peter reynolds is a great example among many activists. we need a true medium for the local communities to be heard and for local governments to have more control over their community.

  3. Cultivation of cannabis for one’s own use in one’s own home is a granted as inclusive in our Right to Private Life under UN Declaration on Human Rights Nd European Charter – the critera under which an authority can interfere with that Right – that is even to come into one’s private life, home, activities or practice of one’s belief (alone or in company of others) – is defined in the Articles in the above treaties.

    That is it must be in the interests of law AND (a very important word) protecting public health, public order and the rights of others.

    Growing a crop for own use is no threat to public health, public order or, normally, the rights of others (avoid bad smells etc) – therefore, despite the law, the otherwise entry into and interference with Private LIfe is essentially itself illegal.

    What happens though, when the person / people cultivating announce that they are growing cannabis even if for their own use to help them cope with terrible illness and / or pain?

    Don Barnard, Biz Ivol, Lezley Gibson, Colin Davies, Chris Baldwin, Grannie Pat Tabram, Stuart Wyatt, Winston Matthews, Marcus Davies, Pinky … and many more still within the last few years – all faced prison and some spent time in prison – and millions of others punished just for possession.

    So many people will be reluctant to particpate in surveys and I have little faith in estimated numbers of users or growers.

    • I think the punishment is when the courts assume that its for commercial use as this is prohibited activity. These assumptions need to be broken by those who are facing a judge. thats why they ask do you give this to friends or use baggies or money as evidence of trading.

  4. Nice to see so much debate sparked so quickly, and thank you all for your participation!
    Yes, Mark, these people are farmers cultivating their crops – yes, Darryl, Maximus and Alun, the law as administered in the UK seems fundamentally at odds with human rights – and yes it is the broader approach and attitudes that need to be changed, not just the UK law. Part of the point here is to demonstrate that the vast majority of those who grow are good people – not the sort of people the law should be labeling as criminal at all (any more than any other farmers, or anyone else who chooses to exercise their own private life how they please). Whether we can do that through a survey I do not know for sure (point well taken, Alun), but we can try – I believe that we need to campaign in every way we can, and for me, given my job, that is within the realm of academic research as well as through protest, campaigning, direct action and the rest.
    Keep up the good work, and thanks!

  5. I don’t think its just growing a plant that is the legal issue here – it’s the impact that growing it has on society when on a large scale. On the other hand you could claim what harm is being done when its for an individual.
    It’s illegal at this moment and probably for reason..

  6. Are people that brew their own beer/wine for themselves/friends pleasure non-commercially, criminals? No…. If I grow 100 plants that are for personal/family/friend use (no money involved), that should not be a crime… If I grow 1 plant for the purposes of making money, sell to anyone that wants it etc…… That is a crime, regardless of amount of plants involved.
    Why is there no differentiation in law between the obvious personal grower eg 10 plants in a tent and 20 cuttings for the next cycle, and the obvious ‘criminal’ grower eg entire house(s) turned into a grow op, theft of electricity, 1000+ plants, links to guns, people trafficing etc

    • Natural law is always the REAL law, the rest simply derives from law, the meaning of legislation is ‘ a legislative rule of society given the force of law by the consent of the governed’ Thats why police always ask for your ID for anything, they can only act upon the person, which is owned by the crown from birth. secondly clear conflict of interest at the courts, police employed by the council who work for the crown, then the judge also employed by the crown. i seen alot of ‘freeman’ get owned at court because they don’t know what they are doing. ‘common law’ is NOT natural law, that’s also in commerce so does not make sense. The most sensible way is to stick to religious txt’s like the bible/quran/torah and stay away from being assigned a solicitor, keep fearless (the lion) know that your ID is not you but your ‘strawman’, your a man not a corporate body. Police will try to get your details. but there is case law that you don’t have to give them ANYTHING! Rice v connoly. i was disgusted when i read about the mother of two who had been jailed for growing the plant. all because we are not taught to navigate the courts at school. absolutely society failure!

  7. Exactly, but they try and get you to admit or plea in the courts, the moment you plea your fucked. Legalese is another language in court. The definition are always related to commerce. That’s why they use the word person rather than man or individual, person is a corporate body who has the rights of man in form of privileges. When they say trafficking hardly anyone says ‘hang on errr NO’ they assign you a solicitor who will try to get you the least punishment, when in natural law growing a seed is allowed through the bible. The original law derives from god. On the crown badge it’s says diet et min droit; god and my right. Nobody knows that we are playing out wizard of oz. you have to appeal until you get to The Lord Chief Justice. He gives you the remedy, law in mercy. Legislation a are not law but policy. You have know how to navigate the court on your own. Yellow brick road. Never admit or plea let them enter one for you. If you are at a magistrates they will always find you guilty because thy are commercial courts, so you mut under the magistrates court act 111 state a case for the opinion of the high courts. Once your up there, your closer to the wizard. Never make a statement. Always make an affidavit, as this verifies the facts! Statement allies an argument! Goodluck everyone and live light and truth 🙂

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