New sentencing guidelines have been released for drug offences in the UK. Many are excited. Some go so far as to engage in celebration. One cannabis advocacy group has gone so far as to announce that personal use grow operations are now decriminalized. This is dangerous thinking; the sort that could get folks thrown in a small, dank cell. You need to go over these new guidelines with a legal eye to see why exactly this whole thing is a bit of bait-and-switch on the part of authorities.
Many are hailing the new guidelines as a victory for cannabis growers. In some cases it almost seems that sentencing guidelines are being loosened, more offences will be met with community service instead of custodial sentences. The judiciary will relax its stranglehold on the hippy gardeners of the UK finally!
Not so much
Wrapped up in the “lighter” sentencing guidelines is the typical poison pill of legislators which gives a free hand to the judiciary to jam a boot up the ass of any grower as they see fit. The devil is in the details, as is typical, and if you’ll scroll down to page 8 of the document I have linked you will see what I am talking about.
On page 8, formatted in a neat little table, is a set of “mitigating circumstances” which encourage judges to be harsher with growers depending on some key factors. The most frightening of these is an undefined clause about “high purity” drugs. There is no precise definition of what in particular defines the “purity” of drugs, or cannabis plants in specific, but it’s there open to interpretation by judges – not one of whom knows good weed from bad cheese.
No grower in their right mind sets out to cultivate lousy cannabis. Working within limited space means you have to squeeze every bit of THC out of each bud to get the desired effect. For some, weak cannabis means no pain relief and thus a total waste of time and resources. Part of the current argument against legalized cannabis is the strength of modern strains. So, unless you are growing shitty ganja in a dank basement, you might qualify as a “high purity” producer and find yourself thrown to the wolves.
So much for decriminalization, huh?
The second thing in these “mitigating circumstances” that jumps out at you is the following line: Presence of others, especially children and/or non-users. That means if there is one person in the domicile that doesn’t consume the cannabis produced you as the grower are now eligible for harsher sentencing. That’s just absurd. It’s another end-run around common sense that allows judges to be as harsh and unreasonable as they see fit. It isn’t more lenient, it just gives the power of prickishness to the dude in the black robe who presides over your fate.
Strike two for the “decriminalization” folks.
Third on my list of concerns is this little tidbit: Attempts to conceal or dispose of evidence, where not charged separately. So, if we want to be a conservative judge we could say that you throwing out your waste materials from cannabis production qualifies as “concealment of evidence” and again entitles you to a long custodial sentence. The devil is always in the details. By making every step of the production process a “mitigating circumstance” they have ensured that what looks like lighter sentencing actually amounts to a free hand with which to oppress cannabis users. The law is an ass: This is certainly no exception.
I suppose to avoid falling into this category you could somehow recycle everything you use in the growing process. No stalks, no cellulose at all, no old light bulbs; it all has to be reused or turned to vapor and released into the winds. Should somebody find a garbage bag with some old hemp stalks in it you might find yourself with a more serious set of charges to go with your cultivation rap. Sounds like a lousy deal to me.
Strike three! Yer outta there!
Forth in my collection of concerns is this line: Established evidence of community impact. What the hell does that mean? Does this mean if your nosey neighbor complains they think you’re stoned all the time and it is a bad example to local children that you might face prison time? It could be construed in that fashion, say if you were a hard nose Crown Attorney looking to make a name for yourself as a crusader against drugs. Law is malleable, and it is entirely a game of semantics. By leaving ill-defined clauses like this in place the legal system is empowered to carry out their own agenda, one which often involves throwing many people in prisons undeservedly.
You have to live in a “community” for the most part. The only way these guidelines ensure lighter sentencing is if you happen to be growing really low-grade cannabis in the middle of nowhere for you and you only – smoking it in a sealed room far from the sight of any other sentient beings. That’s hardly throwing the cannabis loving populous a bone. It’s just like adding a bit more lube before they shove said bone where it will not get tanned.
What can we surmise on the whole about these sentencing guidelines? It’s more of the same old story. While trying to create the appearance of less draconian measures to punish drug offences, they have left themselves just enough rope to hang anyone they see fit. One can conclude that you shouldn’t move your grow-op onto the front porch just yet. While bowing to social pressures through lip-service measures like this one, the government continues to punish cannabis growers disproportionately to other offenders who commit genuine crimes against society. They just don’t like weed in Parliament.