A special task force set up in the West Midlands has revealed figures that show four cannabis factories per day are being raided in the region. The pilot Cannabis Disposal scheme is to be adopted by other parts of the country soon.
18 MONTHS ago a special task force was set up in the West Midlands called the Cannabis Disposal Team specifically operating to tackle the rise in commercial cannabis grows that had reached an all time high. This was done as an attempt to target production to see if it is more effective than simply taking out the dealers who are instantly replaced by another opportunist.
Mike Hall, manager of the Cannabis Disposal Team said “We find that many gangs use drugs and particularly cannabis as a cash point.”
The profits made from growing cannabis on a commercial scale without the care and attention it should require are substantial even when it is sold in wholesale. The production cost is minimal and considering gangs have multiple rooms set up at a time in case one or two get raided you can see the scale and freedom they have to grow.
He continued, “The cash from the factories goes into funding criminal activity.”
This is certainly true in the case of the large, often Vietnamese/Asian gangs who are involved in people trafficking and arms dealing that have popped up and thrived over the last decade however it is now something that British gangs have also adopted – not unexpectedly under the current harsh economic climate. They also become fire arms customers as they need to protect themselves.
“If you look at the socio-economics of it, because of a downturn in the industry ther’s more places available to grow cannabis and also in times of rececion it has always been indicated that people turn to using drugs or even growing them.
“Generally people don’t want them around because they’re dangerous and it creates a terrible environment to live in.”
Of course, referring back to Mike Halls previous comments found in full in the video below, “…they are often dangerous because they are not wired up to an industry standard” rather than sending in a task force to rip it down why not offer guidance of industry standards prior and put in place regulation so that cannabis farms are not in domestic areas?
On the opposite side to this unfortunate look at the cannabis industry we have legitimate and worthy cannabis farmers that carry out their work with the utmost care and attention still on what is considered a commercial and even industrial scale. It is their trade and a skill that they have worked at and taken time and money to become good at and reach that level of cultivation in quantity and quality. It costs a lot of money to run a facility cleanly, smoothly and to a high standard.
These farmers are not using their profits to fund crime. They are feeding their families, keeping a roof over their heads and sometimes funding a lifestyle. Mortgages are paid, houses and cars are bought, nights in, nights out and clothes and accessories, phones, laptops, iPads…even holidays and lets not forget Christmas. When 50% of Britain paid for their festive period on credit cards last year, these guys probably paid cash.
These gardens often need to employ 4 or more hands to work due to the nature of the work and the scale. If they were in a warehouse in Colorado or Washington over in the United States instead of in Birmingham, UK they would being called entrepreneurs not criminals. They would be helping a large number of medicinal patients growing 10,000 plants and being thanked by the state for saving them from going broke. The citizens of both Colorado and Washington voted to legalise the sale and taxation of cannabis to adults back in November 2012 and have had Medical Marijuana since 2000. Colorado even wrote into the legislation that the tax money would be going into the school system.
But if there are only 4 factory grows being busted a day in the West Midlands and there is still so much availability – albeit lack of decent choice, surely that means that the 8 man Cannabis Disposal Team are hardly putting a dent in the actual cannabis growing industry, dangerous gang or not. How many are being set up a day in the whole of the West Midlands? Probably more than 4 and plenty still under the radar. What is transparent though is that many lives of otherwise law abiding citizens, who do not need to be unsettled and interrupted by the law, are being, and this could and should be easily avoided.
When one of the gang grows does get raided there is usually a caretaker gardener there that is not involved in any organisation of the opperation, they just tend to the plants and get a small pay out. More often than not the gardener is a illegal immigrant smuggled in withoutt knowing his new fate and is treated like a slave and locked in a house to grow. They hardly speak a word of English, are given a custodial sentance and then deported. No justice prevails, no victim has been served and no real criminal has been caught – the one behind the real crime is off setting up their next.
The police have highlighted that it is the profit of cannabis that is a problem because gangs are able to make extortionate sums of money off of it in such a relatively short time period. This essentially allows anyone to make a large profit with a relatively low risk and get a quick step up the ladder – again very appealing for those already criminally inclined, willing or forced into a position to take the risk. The police are just going to do the job they are given though and if they currently get money to go after farms that’s what they will continue to do, can they afford to complain in a time of cuts?
A Cheaper, Safer Alternative to Task Forcing?
Realistically the Cannabis Disposal Teams should not even exist – but we are living in the “war on drugs” era. Gangs will drop off the radar as soon as the value of the product decreases or regulatory measures come in that they do not want to abide by, and when consumers demand the standard of product that those gardens produce. The look and social stigma towards those who use cannabis will start to change and the cost of running a special dedicated task force to dispose of cannabis factories across the West Midlands (and soon to be other parts of the country), will seem like a large financial and manpower waste.
The Cannabis Disposal Team must come up against some quite dangerous situations. Some of these gangs will go to great lengths to protect their crops as they are worth quite the small fortune every time, in some cases up to half a million or more. Entrances have been booby trapped with dangerous weapons or explosives and as we have already learnt they have not been afraid to start arming themselves even with automatic weapons.
Is enforcing prohibition worth encouraging and continuing to invite this kind of anti social and dangerous, criminal behaviour to our country? Or are we more sophisticated than that? Can we not see that a safer alternative would be to allow people to grow it at home for themselves and for those who do it properly allow their industry to become legitimate.
Mike Hall manager of the West Midlands Cannabis Disposal Team said “It ain’t just mother natures herb, it’s serious organised crime”.
Saying yes to an enforcement lead approach increases the risk to cannabis cultivators, consumers and the public. It keeps the price high, the quality down and the number of gangs growing it increasing – no matter how many they say they are disposing of a day.
Saying yes to decriminalisation and allowing the way to be paved for a regulated cannabis industry prevents harms to both society and the consumer, says yes to saving much needed police time and resources for serious criminal investigations like rape, burglary and murder and is effective at removing the gangs from an industry that they should never be involved in.