Pubdate: Sun, 23 Dec 2007
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Contact:  2007 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Dianne Abbott
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


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 

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.
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