Sunday, 25 September 2011

Cannabis farming in Barnet

The story on the Barnet Times website receiving the most hits and getting the most comments right now is concerning a police raid on a "massive cannabis factory in Hendon" -

Now I'm not going to discuss the rights and wrongs of the "war on drugs" here. The thing I am interested in is how safe is the skunk weed grown in these establishments? Most of the users, when asked, would say "It's safe, innit, it's just a natural herb". Is the correct? Well lets look at how these factories grow the product. They use hydroponic systems (this means the plants are grown in water, with nutrients and insecticides derectly fed in. This encourages rapid growth. The biggest problem for such intensive setups is an insect known as the red spider mite. Many a hippy has had their day ruined, when their "vegetable patch" has been invaded by these nasty critters.

The gangs who run commercial operations have a simple solution to this. They use "systemic insecticides" to kill the buggers. Systemic insecticides are fed in with the nutrients in the watering system and make the plants poisonous to the mite. That way crop yeilds are assured. There is one downside. They are also bad for humans and persistent. You can't legally use them to grow vegetables for this reason. Illegal cannabis farms work under no such constraints and the people who run them have no interest in the long term health of their customers. When you smoke weed grown by such organisations, you've no idea what it contains.

What is my greatest concern is that the police and the authorities have no interest in raising public awareness of this issue. I've raised it on a few occasions only to be told a) Information is not collated on the techniques used to grow illegal crops and b)  It is not the job of the police to raise peoples awareness of health issues. I've also discussed it with doctors who tell me it's not the job of the medical profession to make drugs policy.

So while all of these departments bury their heads in the sand, millions of people, many of them young, are exposing themselves to chemicals that are carcinogenic, can potentially cause liver, kidney and pulmonary failure and are banned for use with products consumed by humans. You may ask what my solution would be. Well firstly I'd make the police log all chemicals associated with industrial production of cannabis. Anyone supplying cannabis containing dangerous levels of chemicals should be charged for offences which reflect the risk they contain. If Marks and Spencers were caught knowingly supplying tomatoes which had a massive health risk from system chemicals, those responsible would face all manner of serious charges.

Perhaps the most upsetting thing is that when I've raised this issue with people who are smokers, they invariably say "Oh no, I get the gear from my mate and it's proper gear, all grown organically" when it clearly isn't. It takes a while for the effects of ingesting such drugs to take effect. Many users will give up long before their lungs start to show the effects. Many don't tell their doctors that they are using or have used such drugs. Many doctors are not even aware of the risks. At some point, the penny will drop and it will be far too late for todays crop of habitual users.

I'd like to see a health awareness campaign, detailing the risks to be rolled out. I'd like to see the police photographing the chemicals and doctors explaining the effects. I'd like to destroy the myth that industrially cultivated cannabis is "organic", it isn't. It's grown by people with no reason to care about anything other than making a quick profit. They have absolutely no reason to care about their customers, because being in an illegal industry, they could get closed down at any time. I do care about the people who don't realise what they are doing to themselves. If you like to smoke weed, or you think your children do, please make sure they are aware of this risk. Many young people boldly say "Dying doesn't bother me". What they don't realise is that living with lung diseases is often what happens first. Sometimes people spend years carting around bottles of oxygen, due to issues with their lungs. I worry that this will become a lot more common in the years to come.

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