William Mills argues that law enforcement is creating a problem which was never there in the first place.
When growing up on a farm in the 1960’s I learnt of society’s entirely practical way of dealing with alcohol. If the harvest yielded a bumper crop of apples the farmer could make alcoholic cider, scrumpy, as it’s affectionately known. If we drank too much we were invariably sick and it was regarded as our own fault for over indulging.
However the state kept an eye on things by making distilling spirits illegal. Turning cider into much stronger brandy is a complicated process, and if the amateur gets it wrong a lethal combination of methanol can be produced by accident. This poison is nicknamed moonshine, the stuff which is supposed to send us blind.
The State has set the right balance between allowing its citizens to have some party fun while protecting them from unscrupulous boot-leggers out to make a quick profit.
Sadly this common sense approach was not applied to cannabis growing. In 1968 the Baroness Wotton report, the one of many such studies into drug misuse, concluded that the greatest danger the drug user faced was legal, not chemical. A law meant to protect its citizens is in fact their greatest danger. The damage from being labelled a convicted criminal and sent to prison is far greater than any harm coming from the drug itself. The report also pointed out that the law forced drug users to mix with criminals in order to gain supply.
The State continued to make the problem worse. An American author pointed out that if a product is illegal then the traffickers will also seek to smuggle it in its most condescend form. The 1930’s gangsters didn’t smuggle beer; they transported spirits which were far less bulky and could be watered down at the destination.
Likewise a million dollars of cannabis takes up a lorry load of space, whereas the same value of cocaine conveniently fits into a suitcase.
In the 1970’s cannabis seeds, possession of which is not illegal, were available in commercial bird seed packs. If grown as a house plant in the UK’s bland climate it rarely flowers and the resulting crop available to smoke is small in amount and weak in potency rather like homemade beer.
And that’s how it should have been left, something one did in the privacy of their own home with only transportation and sale remaining illegal.
Sadly the authorities decided to crack down on home grown supply comparing the cultivation of a plant at home the same as drug smuggling. The later usually blackmails and intimidates innocent servants to be mules and to swallow packages at great personal risk and for little profit.
To grow cannabis at home has became a serious crime. It carries a prison sentence. As it’s a risky business the rewards must match the dangers. So the criminals have taken up indoor gardening in a big way. Hydroponic lighting uses serious amounts of electricity. A darkened room has 1000 watt bulbs strung across its ceiling like a row of electric bar heaters on 18 hours a day to try and trick the plants into believing it’s forever high summer.
Every chemical and horticultural trick is used to get them to not only flower but yield the most potent cannabis possible, usually known as ‘skunk’, which is the ‘meths’ of cannabis production. It is akin to inhaling toxic industrial pollution.
Sensible people steer clear of it.
But rather than ban it, the authorities should permit amateur growing. To safely set up a cannabis factory with all the lights and electrical wiring that’s necessary is a major operation well outside most people’s budget and level of interest.
Growing birdseed on the windowsill is altogether in a different league. The cannabis will be weak compared to the ‘factory’ variety, but hopefully just strong enough to deter users from bothering to buy the criminals’ stock.