The Government has no plans to close a legal loophole that allows the sale of cannabis seeds from city centre stores (writes April Mitchinson).
The seeds, which retail at around £20 for a pack of 10, can be purchased over the counter from at least two stores in Dundee city centre.
It is not illegal to stocks, sell or purchase the seeds — but a criminal offence is committed as soon as they are used to produce the class B drug cannabis.
Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice seeking clarification on the matter after it was highlighted by the Tele last month.
In a written response, Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing MSP told Mr Hosie, “The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 refers to cannabis and cannabis resin as controlled drugs, but not cannabis seeds because they do not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
“Therefore the sale and possession of cannabis seeds is legal in the UK. Indeed, they are legitimately used for commercial cultivation of hemp (under Home Office licence), in the food industry (cooking oils, confectionary and speciality breads), the pet food industry (bird seeds, ground bait for anglers) and the cosmetic industry (including the Body Shop range of hemp cosmetics).
“I have been advised by officials in the UK Government that where illegal commercial cultivation of cannabis has been uncovered, the female plant cutting is being used, and there is no evidence of seeds being used for cannabis cultivation.
“For that reason, and the fact that blanket prohibition of drug paraphernalia and cannabis seeds would have an adverse impact on the wide range of legitimate uses of these items, the UK Government is of the view that a legislative option to deal with the problem would be premature at this stage.”
The issue came to light earlier this year when a 44-year-old man appeared at Dundee Sheriff Court and admitted purchasing the seeds from a city shopping centre before using them to producing cannabis at his home.
Sentencing was deferred for reports.
The Scottish Government has recently launched a comprehensive new drug and alcohol strategy in a bid to tackle misuse across Scotland, but it is largely impotent on this matter, as the power to reclassify drugs in Scotland has not been devolved.
Mr Hosie said, “It appears these seeds can legally be sold as they do not contain the active ingredient in cannabis which makes it illegal.
“The cannabis seeds are legal. However, there is clearly only one use for these seeds, which is to grow cannabis plants and it is illegal to possess cannabis plants.
“There does appear to be a loophole in the law.”
As part of its drug strategy, the Government reclassified cannabis from class C to class B in January.
The maximum penalty for supply, dealing, production and trafficking is now 14 years imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for possession is five years imprisonment.
Anyone caught in possession of cannabis can be arrested and police can also issue a penalty notice for disorder, which carries an on-the-spot fine of £80.