Notes From The Underground: Marijuana In The UK

I once went to a squat party in North London to meet with several friends (and a few acquaintances). Where I’d been at home most of the day, they’d been out and about London all day, with one of my acquaintances spending that time drinking and taking copious amounts of cocaine.

At this party, my friend took out a jar filled with several grams of homegrown marijuana. The specific strain was The Blues by Underground Originals, and it managed to stink out a squat party that had been storing gutter punks for several years. We rolled up a joint of this magnificent stuff and, as soon as my cocaine-hound acquaintance took a few puffs, she passed out. I quipped, “See? Marijuana isn’t a gateway to other drugs – it stops you from doing the harder stuff in the first place!”

We rolled up a joint of this magnificent stuff and, as soon as my cocaine-hound acquaintance took a few puffs, she passed out. I quipped, “See? Marijuana isn’t a gateway to other drugs – it stops you from doing the harder stuff in the first place!”

The real kicker? If my acquaintance hadn’t spent the day boozing and sniffing, she’d have been treated to a strain that would make her euphoric, chatty, happy and sociable. Oh, and many of us who have taken cuttings of this plant and grew it ourselves also reported an increase in libido – indeed, one person I gifted a joint of this stuff to remarked that he and his girlfriend couldn’t keep their hands off each other after smoking it! Basically, this girl could have gotten all the positive effects she’d have been searching for in cocaine, but in a far safer, cheaper and less addictive form.

However, getting marijuana of this quality is difficult in the UK; and, even if you do get quality, there’s not usually a lot of choice. There’s only one way in which to guarantee yourself value, quality, quantity and variation in effect in the UK, and that’s by growing your own. Yes, you can find decent, trustworthy dealers with good product, but they’re few and far between.

Moreover, due to the combination of illegality of cannabis in the UK and the weather, most of the best stuff is likely to be indica-dominant. Sativas or sativa-dominant hybrids are usually quite difficult to get in the UK, as most of us do not have either the sun or the space. Granted, thanks to the Exodus Collective, we had an excellent hybrid in the form of Cheese, but this was not enough for all of us.

Notes from the underground
‘Getting marijuana of this quality is difficult in the UK…due to the combination of illegality of cannabis in the UK and the weather’

It is for all of the above reasons that I started growing my own stuff. Heck, even in places where marijuana’s legal, I’d recommend growing your own. You cannot usually be beaten for price, quality, quantity and getting the best effects out of your plant this way. This is doubly the case when marijuana is illegal.

I have done both indoor and outdoor guerilla grows (all organic) when the sun’s out in summer. I have also used other people’s gardens (with permission, of course!) to grow a few plants of my own. I do not sell anything I grow, although I have given it away to relatives of friends who suffered from cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS). Selling illegal substances makes you more of a target to not only police, but robbers and gangs.

I’d rather avoid that, and police tend to be more bothered about massive plantations as opposed to a single person growing a few plants of their own, although they will arrest you if they have targets to hit that particular month. Some lucky personal growers just get their grow confiscated and no charge, but this depends upon the area and the discretion of the officer.

For years, marijuana was a Class B drug (the drug classification system in the UK uses “classes” to determine penalties) in the UK. Then, between 2004 and 2009 under New Labour, cannabis became a class C drug. The current system of on-the-spot cannabis fines was also developed at this point in order to prevent the courts from getting clogged up. This meant a drop in prison terms for those caught with possession, as well as an increase in quality and drop in price as people started growing their own a bit more (myself included).

For some of us, 2004 – 2009 felt like a “golden era”. Before that, most marijuana in the UK was indica-based, and some of us even believed that the magical “up” high our hippie parents told us about was a myth. By 2004-5, those beliefs were shattered, as we were treated to Durban Poison, AK47, Kali Mist, Chocolate Thai (which had been in the UK since the 1980s) and Super Silver Haze. Combined with my interest in biology, this spurred me to learn more about marijuana, and I started to grow my own.

At first, I was quite nervous about growing my own. “What if I get caught?” was the main thought going through my head. As I never grew huge amounts, never told anyone about it beyond my own friends, and generally kept my stash as private as possible, this has never come to be the case. So successful was I that my friends were inspired to grow their own and took cuttings from me. They have not looked back since and, as they have all kept it for personal use, they have never been caught.

Regardless of the UK’s official stance towards marijuana, many people throughout the UK accept its usage. The UK is a rather conservative country in many senses, meaning that you’ll get people who are fine with people using cannabis, but still think it should be illegal! “It’s always been thus,” they say, or “We already have enough problems with alcohol – why do you want another one?” They firmly see marijuana as a “drug” rather than a medicine or a drug with significant medical applications, and prohibition is still seen as the ideal way of treating the “problem” of proliferation and usage, regardless of the evidence that shows otherwise.

There are also significant numbers of people who are fine with cannabis use, but say otherwise in public – people can still lose their jobs or be ostracised from communities if they have a view that’s “out of step”. Hence, it is unlikely that the laws surrounding marijuana in the UK will change dramatically in the next several years, although the pressure to do so is increasing, especially for medical reasons. We already have Sativex available on prescription, but the move towards legalizing marijuana as a whole is travelling at a glacier’s pace.

To show this is still the case, against all advice and the wishes of the scientific community at large (including Professor David Nutt), the government put marijuana back to being a class B drug in 2009. The reasons for doing so were not scientific whatsoever – they were entirely political. The police in the quieter parts of the UK need a job to do, and small time marijuana growers can help them keep theirs.

Professor Nutt was sacked from his position after his findings showed that legal drugs/substances like alcohol and tobacco caused far greater social and physical harm than many illicit substances. Marijuana is also the only substance seen as a “gateway drug” amongst the psychiatric community in the UK, meaning it gets treated very differently from alcohol, tobacco and opiates. Yes, this means that, even if an opiate or alcohol addict who started using in their teens and now uses marijuana in their 20s, the marijuana will still be seen as the “gateway drug”!

Alcohol is also firmly embedded as the social lubrication of choice throughout the UK, and people are suspicious or sometimes even downright hostile to the thought of another substance competing or taking over alcohol. I am sure big alcohol producers and pharmaceutical companies have a part to play in this, but these are not the only reasons.
Alcohol is still seen as the “fun time, socially acceptable” drug, and the dominance of indica-based strains has compounded this issue, as even many marijuana users are more likely to use it as “downtime medicine” rather than thinking “You know, this is the ideal replacement for alcohol”.

However, even when I know that it’s not likely the police will ever arrest me, the “What if I get caught?” question is always there in the back of my head. Going to prison for smoking a spliff or eating an edible is still a possibility in the UK, and I don’t want to run the risk of needing to meeting a “fair-minded” police officer should I ever get caught and not get put in prison for what is effectively a victimless crime.

I have, however, become less afraid of this ever happening, as I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with growing marijuana. I recommend that you medical users (and “recreational” users, whatever that means) out there start thinking similarly.


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