Another, Franko, a young Albanian man who is in the UK illegally, is not so optimistic about his chances if he's ever caught. "They will still throw the entire book at us," he says, adding that he's never been caught and never can be, as "it's a real game over on this scale". Franko says he has several homes containing grows yielding 80kgs of cannabis every 16 weeks. "Cannabis should be available to all," he proclaims.
"We live in a society where we lock disabled people up for medicating with a plant," she says, explaining how she was held in a police cell until the early hours of the morning. "They come and take it away from you, it’s just not right. No pharmaceutical medical has been at all useful, steroids just make you fat and hairy. I just want to be able to take the herbal remedies I've been taking for last 30 years."
Mick was un-arrested and eventually only received a police caution, but says he suffered a great amount of stress over fears he could lose his job since, he's required to pass a criminal record bureau check, which can flag up offences as small as cannabis cautions. He and his wife now source cannabis oil from other patients, who make it for £30 a bottle.
On the police's approach to enforcing cannabis laws, he says: "I don't think they really care, do they? Police don't seem to have time for cannabis. You can't book everyone," adding: "I'd hurry up [and legalise cannabis] if I were them. Brexit is coming, and cannabis can boost the economy."
The Legal Weed No One's Talking About
Mick Hodgkins, who grew cannabis to use as relief for his intestinal condition, diverticulitis, as well as his wife's sudden mood swings and extreme joint pain, told me he received a visit from the police, who said they had been told cannabis was being grown on his premises in east Sussex in May last year. "I admitted it was, and I was cautioned," he says. "I informed the officers that I had four cannabis plants growing in my loft, but they were for medicinal purposes and very low in THC and high in CBD."
Twenty-six of the UK's 43 police forces responded in full to Freedom of Information requests, showing that arrests have plummeted by 57 percent over six years across the vast majority of the UK – from 6,859 in 2012, to 2,949 in 2018 – though the total is likely to be higher. Less than half of these people, who include both medicinal cannabis patients and members of organised crime groups, subsequently faced charges.
Another grower, Kamal, tells me he has been caught on three separate occasions, and was eventually charged for possession with intent to supply, and distribution. "They really didn't like me, but when you get off with a suspended sentence again and again, you almost just laugh it off and get props from the guys," he says. "They take everything and you just need to start again. It happens to everyone."
ORIGINAL REPORTING ON EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS IN YOUR INBOX.
"They came in, took everything, roughly 20 plants, left some paperwork saying how fucked I am, left," says Danny, an English 50-something non-medicinal grower. "But I was never charged. Nobody showed up after they raided."
There are up to 500,000 cannabis grows in the UK, according to figures from Cannabis Patient Advocacy and Support Services. It's estimated that weed from about a third of those grows – which often contain no more than ten plants – is used solely for medicinal purposes.
Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £90 if you’re found with cannabis.
Your penalty will depend on:
The maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (selling, dealing or sharing) and production depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.
The penalties depend on the type of drug or substance, the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing it.
You can get a fine or prison sentence if you:
Psychoactive substances include things like nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’).
If you’re under 18, the police are allowed to tell your parent, guardian or carer that you’ve been caught with drugs.
You may be charged with possessing an illegal substance if you’re caught with drugs, whether they’re yours or not.
The penalty is likely to be more severe if you are found to be supplying drugs (dealing, selling or sharing).