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Cannabis And UK Law
The Laws As They Stand
 

Though it is not illegal to buy, possess, or trade cannabis seed, it is illegal to posses, sell, produce or import the drug in any form. The courts are allowed to prescribe a custodial (prison) sentence for any of these crimes.

There are recommended bands with regards to the harshness of sentencing.

This information is only meant to be a guide and one thing we strongly recommend is that you DO NOT GROW MARIJUANA FOR COMMERCIAL GAIN.

How The Courts Work
When a defendant appears in court, he will be faces the prosecution team. It is their job to make his crime appear to be as serious as possible and to present as much evidence against him as is humanly possible. They will not be shy of making out the case to be worse than is really is on the basis that he will be doing the opposite.
How The Judges Decide On Sentencing
The judges take each case individually to a certain extent but there are laws, guidelines, precedents that help him or her decide. The main factors are as follows:


  • The Size Of The Operation
This is obvious but what is "small"? The simple answer is as small as possible. This means you should grow as few plants as you can in as small a space as you can. From reading many case histories it appears that 5 plants (all other factors being amenable) or less is the upper limit to be reasonably confident of avoiding a prison sentence. However if you had a conviction for possession in your past or any one of about 20 other factors this still might not keep you on the outside. The judge considers the potential so it is wise to keep the actual growing area down to the size you need and no more. It is usually safer to grow 3 largish plants than 20 Sea of Green ones. You can never be sure what figures the expert witness will come up with. They may well assume that all 20 were to be grown to 5 feet and then you are in serious trouble.


• Avoiding Continuous Production Methods
The Sea of Green system may work well but it is a legal headache if you get caught. It immediately alerts the authorities that you have a planned venture and intend to keep doing it - i.e. you are intending to continuously break the law. It is far safer to grow say 3 plants, take 3 cuttings when they go into flower and then flower the cuttings when ready. This way you only have 3 plants and 3 cuttings or at worst 6 plants. Having a mother with plants all a various stages of development is dangerous.


• Keeping It Simple
Somewhat bizarrely, judges take a dim view on what they term as "sophisticated" set-ups. This includes all hydroponics methods, timers, fans, pH meters, Sun-Circles/Shuttles, EC meters, pumps, ozone generators, exhaust fans, special nutrients, chemicals, CO2 and pretty much anything electronic or automated.Time and again, the sophistication of set-up is mentioned and used as evidence to quash appeals. This is a real (and typical) quote "The operation was highly sophisticated and in essence concerned the growth of cannabis in a forced atmosphere of water and artificial light known as hydroponics, which produced the yield much quicker and stronger than of the plants in earth." What the court thinks is sophisticated is common practice to the average pot grower in the 21st century. Practical suggestions include: disguising your special nutrients in more common bottles like tomato feed or similar, hiding/disguising/throwing grow books and magazines, using garden-center equipment/materials when remotely possible (e.g. clone in vermiculite and not rock-wool), use white paint instead of Mylar and so on.


• Avoiding Detection
Obviously everyone who grows pot wants to avoid detection but things like false doors, ozone generators and infra-red shielding all go against the defendant if actually caught. Individual growers would need to balance what is necessary to avoid prosecution altogether and what will happen if it doesn't work.


• Collusion
Courts nearly always give out harsher punishment to people who commit crimes in groups. Their reasoning is that collusion infers a greater degree of planning and deception, which they don't like! So if you didn't have enough reasons to keep EVERYONE out of it and your mouth shut then here is another.


• Involvement Of Minors
This does not need to be a Fagan style city-wide-drugs-in-Pokemon-cards dealing syndicate to get you into deeper trouble. In the cases we studied, the likelihood of the defendant's children accidentally stumbling on the grow and apparently immediately having their innocence taken from them, was definitely seen to be a negative factor.


• Evidence Of Financial Gain
This is a big subject. It covers anything from simple selling your weed to selling your grow kit to renting a flat to a grower. Needless to say you should not make a single penny out of your grow. If you don't actually commit this aspect of the crime then it will be hard (but not impossible) for the prosecution to prove you did. Never keep any more than a few days worth of cash in the house. A £2000 stack of used £20's that you were going to buy a car with may well be turned into the "seedy profits of underworld drug dealing". Selling or even giving drugs to friends is a very bad idea. Admitting to it is an even worse one.


• Evidence Of Previous & Future Grows
You should not hold stocks of any materials that could be deemed to be of use in your grow. For instance, if the police were to uncover 50 used plant pots and a 200 liter sack of vermiculite, perlite and 50 new pots in your shed, you are likely to have any claims that this grow was a "one off" laughed out of court. And once you have been caught lying to the police or worse still the court then you are two steps closer to incarceration.


• How Good You Are At It
Another bizarre finding, but our research suggests that the strength of the weed and your perceived expertise in the subject will go against you. You would be well advised to keep your knowledge to yourself. Here is a typical quote: "It was the prosecution case that Owen had used his scientific expertise to set up the factory. The Crown relied on evidence that he had brought hydroponics equipment between December 1992 and March 1994 while he was living at the cottage"


• Previous Convictions For Similar Offences
This is not cannabis specific. All sentences are given in consideration of your previous behavior. If you have been caught growing once already, then you are almost certain of receiving a prison sentence. N.B. Crimes not related to growing or drugs are also considered.


• The Defendants Social, Marital, & Work Status
In general the more upstanding and "normal" you are the better. The more you have to lose the less they will be inclined to take it away, especially if children are involved. A young up-and-coming city trader is likely to get a lighter sentence and reduced custodial times than an unemployed guy who organizes free dance festivals. Appalling but true.


• The Defendants Attitude Towards Cannabis & It's Production
This is a point often overlooked by the cannabis community. With the widespread nature of cannabis books, magazines, Internet sites and with famous people and politicians all talking about cannabis consumption with greater and greater openness, it is easy to fall into a false sense of security. The laws have not changed so quickly and the number of people prosecuted for cannabis offences is rising, not falling. Your opinions on the current state of cannabis's place in society, the waste of police time and the morality of the drug-culture are not only irrelevant but actually highly damaging. The courts realise that people must respect their authority even when it is morally incorrect. This is demonstrated by the unusually harsh sentences received by "people who take the law into their own hands" and start beating up the local joy-riders. It is essential that you do not under any circumstances give the impression that you think the laws are unjust or worse still, question the authority of the judge. These comments were mentioned in a number of appeal cases and were shown to go against the defendant, partially on the basis that it suggests that they will not be truly repentant.

If you are arrested it appears to be important that you appear to be repentant right from the start. You need to walk the fine line between giving the police/court evidence that they didn't have and appearing to be obstructive. For instance, when the police ask you to say something you could say that you don't understand the meaning of the rights read to you and you would like to consult a solicitor before saying anything stupid. And that you are very sorry for doing so etc.

If a defendant's demeanor throughout the process is that of a nice guy/girl who liked a bit of a smoke, grew a few bag seeds in a basic set-up, got caught, immediately snapped back to reality and realize the errors of his ways and would in no way ever do the same thing again....then he/she is likely to get a relatively light sentence.


• Medical Matters
With the press coverage of medical usage of cannabis (or marijuana if you need some alliteration in your headline!) this has become a hot issue. For the cultivating defendant it is a tricky one. Although their sentencing policies may make them appear to be stupid, Judges are usually highly intelligent. They know that the medical defense is going to be used by virtually everyone who appears before them for cultivation. They are forewarned and forearmed. Our research showed that medical de fence was useful but only if backed up with firm evidence. Typically people were treated with leniency and even got off (via a jury decision mostly) if they were ostensibly infirm, had a serious illness and were old. Defendants turning up to court saying that they were growing for an old knee injury do not do themselves (or the medical cannabis cause) and favors. There are plenty of books and articles on this subject but suffice it to say that the defendants did well to inform their doctors of their self-medication and get his agreement that it could be of benefit.


• And Finally
People talk about their growing set-ups with pride and encourage you to get the latest chemical or piece of kit. They may suggest that small garden cannot produce good weed. The whole idea of talking openly about your illegal activities over an open communication system might lead you to believe that things are not as bad as they seem. Unfortunately they are actually worse. If you are merely growing weed with just 10 plants in perlite/hydro under a 1000W HPS you could be facing a 4-6 month prison sentence even if they believe your personal use story. Would your boss, wife, girlfriend, her parents, your parents all understand?

Legalise Cannabis Alliance - 22 Apr, 03.

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