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23/12/2007 00:00:00

Filling the cannabis gap in Britian

Most people associate cannabis with Rastafarianism and cannabis growing
with countries like Jamaica. So I was interested to hear a report on the
BBC this week, which suggested that Britain might actually have become a
net exporter of cannabis.

Traditionally Britain has imported most of its cannabis. There were, of
course, always people who grew cannabis for personal use. This ranged
from the odd straggly pot plant to rows of rows of cannabis plants
carefully grown in a loft under special lamps.

But cannabis has never been commercially grown in Britain. That has all
changed. In the last six years the cultivation of cannabis as a cash
crop has grown exponentially. This is not done outdoors. We have too
little sunshine to make that viable.

Instead, the commercial growers use houses bought specially, in areas
where housing is cheap. The houses have their curtains drawn tight all
day long. And every room is given over to growing cannabis.

Growing cannabis commercially is not just confined to inner-city areas.
There are 51 police forces in Britain. Forty-seven of them have reported
commercial cannabis cultivation. In Glasgow, Scotland, police have
closed down 61 cannabis factories in nine months. In (largely rural)
Derbyshire they have closed 200 factories in a year. And in London, the
Metropolitan police have closed down over 1,500 factories in the past
two years - three a day. But the commercial cannabis growers that
actually get shut down are the tip of the iceberg.

The police admit that closing down these enterprises is low on their
list of priorities. It is apparently a very time-consuming operation.
There need to be weeks of research and surveillance and a team of men on
the day. Understandably the police think dealing with robbery, burglary
and violent crime is more important.

The police say that commercial cannabis-growing is dominated by a single
ethnic group. And that is not, as some people might suspect, West
Indians. The ethnic group that control the business are the Vietnamese.
And it is also associated with illegal Vietnamese immigration.

Nobody knows how they came to dominate commercial cannabis- growing in
Britain. But they have discovered a gap in the market and moved
energetically to supply the need.

Apparently Morocco in North Africa had a particularly successful
cannabis eradication programme some years ago, which cut their exports
by half.

So Britain's domestic commercial cannabis production expanded rapidly to
meet demand. It is estimated that domestic production currently supplies
60% of the cannabis consumed in this country. But police are convinced
that, because they are seeing so much commercial production, some of it
must be for export.

The debate rages as to how damaging smoking cannabis really is. All the
medical evidence shows that it less harmful than alcohol. And, it is
certainly less likely to lead to violent crime.

On the other hand, it is argued that the new strains of cannabis being
commercially cultivated indoors in artificial conditions in Britain and
the rest of Europe are actually stronger and more toxic than the
cannabis grown more naturally in the open air in Jamaica and elsewhere.

But the continued rise of commercial production in Britain proves that
pressuring poor countries like Jamaica and Morocco to burn their crops
is pointless. Unless something is done about demand, other suppliers
(including domestic producers) will emerge to fill the gap.

LCA FORUM invites YOU:

Author: Jamican Observer via UKCIA

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