Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jan 2021
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2021 The New York Times Company
Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jan 2021
Author: Isabella Kwai


LONDON - The normal bustle of London's financial district has been
quieted by the latest national lockdown, with businesses shuttered and
work shifted to home.

But the sudden lull and the unexpected vacating of prime real estate
has seen at least one venture (albeit an illegal one) thrive: an
indoor weed farm.

That ended this past week when police officers discovered the criminal
operation, which they called a "cannabis factory," in a basement
equipped with wired lighting and ventilation tubes in a commercial
building not far from the Bank of England.

Responding to reports of a strong smell, officers discovered 826
cannabis plants - the first such factory ever found in the financial
district, according to the City of London Police. It was "no doubt
being set up in response to fewer people being out and about during
the pandemic who might have noticed any unusual activity," said Andy
Spooner, the acting detective inspector leading the investigation, in
a statement released on Wednesday.

The City of London, as the financial district is called, has emptied
as the British government tries to tamp down a surge in coronavirus
cases, instructing employees to work from home to curb transmission.
The area is normally teeming with people, particularly on weekdays.
The London Stock Exchange and the corporate headquarters of major
financial groups, as well as the Bank of England, are all tightly
clustered in the zone, also known as the Square Mile.

A spokeswoman for the City of London said the force policing the
district usually dealt with economic crimes such as fraud. A drug bust
was uncommon, she noted.

The police said two people had been arrested in the continuing

It is illegal to grow, sell or use cannabis for recreational purposes
in Britain. The supply or possession of the drug can lead to up to 14
years in prison, a fine or both.

Pro-cannabis groups and some patients have lobbied for the medical
properties of the drug to be recognized, and, since 2018, doctors have
been allowed to legally issue prescriptions for marijuana. The use of
cannabis-based medicine was approved for use by the National Health
Service in England and Wales in 2019.

A United Nations commission voted in December to reclassify marijuana
for medical purposes as a less dangerous drug, a highly anticipated
and long-delayed decision that many said could clear the way for an
expansion of marijuana research and medical use.
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