Last Week in Weed Issue 18

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, we look at mayoral ‘decriminalisation’ in London, Canopy buying Supreme, & a UC claimant dealing to support his family.

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 18)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at the Mayor of London considering cannabis decriminalisation in the city, Canopy Growth acquiring Canadian Supreme Cannabis, and a cannabis dealer tells a UK judge that he sold weed to cover his low income on Universal Credit.

Sadiq Khan announced that if re-elected he would consider ‘decriminalise’ cannabis

London Mayor to consider ‘decriminalising’ cannabis

First up this week, we will be looking at the London Mayor announcing that if re-elected he would set up an independent ‘London drugs commission’ to look at the potential health, socio-economic, and criminal justice benefits of decriminalising cannabis in the English capital.

Last week the former MP for Tooting and current Lord Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced that if re-elected he plans to create a ‘London Drug Commission’ to investigate the benefits of decriminalising cannabis within London.

The announcement was met with immediate suspicion and skepticism by his opponents, the PM, and even his own party leader. We all know that most politicians are about as trustworthy as a dog guarding a steak dinner, but could there actually be any substance to this policy pipe dream?

The mayor of London is a big role with big responsibilities. But legalising cannabis is nowhere in the remit. Sadiq Khan should focus on his actual job – not on policies he has no control over.” – Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey

Technically speaking Shaun Bailey is right, the mayor of London doesn’t have the power to actually change the law or ‘legalise’ cannabis, that is the government’s responsibility. However, they do have the power to control policing policies in the capital.

Sadiq Khan or whoever is successful in the upcoming election could instruct the head of the MET police in London to no longer criminalise those who break cannabis laws. A move similar to the checkpoint diversion scheme set up by the late Ron Hogg and Mike Barton, Durham constabulary’s former Police Crime Commissioner, and Chief Constable.

We can do that within the law as it stands. We have the discretion to deal with offenders. If we want to divert them, we can do that. We are beyond decriminalisation. We are already doing that.” _North Wales PCC Arfon Jones

If Sadiq Khan is successful in winning re-election and implementing the recommendations put forth by the new commission it could mean that the other 23 mayors would have a roadmap to follow suit. However, to achieve any meaningful change an agreement would need to be made with the local constabulary to ensure the full de-facto decriminalisation of low-level cannabis offences.

Last year the Independent Office for Police Conduct recommended that forces should no longer conduct stop and searches based on the smell of cannabis. Sian Berry the Green Party candidate who is challenging Sadiq Khan for his mayoral seat backs those recommendations and wants more movement around ending the criminalisation of cannabis consumers. Interestingly, the Green party is the only party to currently have ‘decriminalisation’ of cannabis in their manifesto.

Those recommendations have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears as just shy of 110,085 people were criminalised due to antiquated and draconian drug policies in England and Wales during 2019/20 according to a new analysis from House of Commons researchers.

It’s estimated that drug prohibition costs society around £19billion a year according to the London mayors office. A bargain when you consider that Alcohol consumption costs the UK an estimated £21 – £52 billion a year according to Public Health England or the equivalent to 1.3 – 2.7% of the country’s total GDP.

It is estimated by the Treasury department that ‘legalising’ and regulating the sale of cannabis in the UK could generate over a billion pounds a year in taxation, a rather conservative estimate if you ask me. It would also save a great deal of the above-mentioned £19 billion wasted on criminalising cannabis consumers.

The closest rival for the London mayorship is Conservative Shaun Bailey who recently stated that “’legalising’ cannabis would create more issues, rather than solve them.” A truly ignorant and outdated sentiment echoed by the new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. The Labour leader spoke a few weeks ago about who his party had no plans to even consider ‘decriminalising’ cannabis. Demonstrating just how wilfully oblivious and out of touch the ‘political elite’ in this country really are with the people they purport to represent.

“Cannabis is a gateway drug. Legalising it won’t fix our crime epidemic or save lives. In fact, it will compound so many of the problems we already face. I’ve seen first-hand the misery that drugs cause. I was a youth worker for twenty years, and I know that no one ever turned their lives around while still on drugs. “More personally, my brother suffered from addiction issues. In the end, those issues took his life. Legalising cannabis would have done nothing for him” – Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey

Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed this antiquated and archaic ideology by issuing a press statement after Sadiq Khan revealed his proposals. Stating that;

The prime minister has spoken about this on many occasions – illicit drugs destroy lives and he has absolutely no intention of legalising cannabis, which is a harmful substance. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, will know that the policy on controlled drugs is a matter for the UK Government. It’s not a matter for his office.” – PM press secretary Allegra Stratton

So is this just another cynical ploy by a mayor stuck held captive on a sinking ship being steered by an elitist establishmentarian or could there be some truth to his word? Only time will tell if Sadiq Khan retains his seat and keeps his election promises, but if history is any indicator then you should take this announcement and any statements with a rather large fist full of salt.

Canopy Growth Corp buys Supreme Cannabis for £250 million

Canopy Growth acquires Supreme cannabis company

Canopy Growth Corp announced last week that it was continuing its streak of recent acquisitions by purchasing fellow Canadian company Supreme Cannabis. The deal worth around £250 million was announced last week on April 8th and is expected to be finalised by the end of June this year.

The Canadian powerhouse also announced the previous week that it was to acquire Toronto-based Ace Valley, a company that specialises in producing vapes, gummies, and pre-rolls in a somewhat desperate attempt to attract more Gen Z and millennial customers to the company.

This acquisition will add Supreme brands 7Acres, Sugarleaf, and Hi-way to Canopy’s Tweed, Tokyo Smoke, Houseplant, and Martha Stewarts CBD brands. This would potentially make them the largest company in Canada well, until the Tilray and Aphira merger goes through later this year.

“Our supply is in balance with our demand, so we just view this as a win on the brand side and a win from a production asset side. It also bolsters our path to profitability in Canada, which then positions us to hold that strong set of financial statements for our entry into the U.S. market.” – Canopy chief executive, David Klein 

The deal will also see Canopy take control of Supreme’s extensive consumer database, market insights, and R&D capabilities. Shares of Supreme Cannabis jumped 50% on the announcement but Canopy didn’t fair as well with the share price dropping 5% after news of the buyout broke.

“This is a bit about how do we strengthen ourselves in our home market, so that we can be prepared to really make our mark in the U.S. when we can”  – Canopy chief executive David Klein

The moves made recently by Canopy and other Canadian companies are all about positioning themselves ready for the inevitable federal ‘legalisation’ of cannabis in the United States. When you consider that Canada only has a population of 38 million compared to the US which has 328 million, it becomes clear why they’d want to be the ones making those initial deals and sales.

UK dealer tells judge Universal Credit isn’t enough to feed family

UK dealer tells judge Universal Credit isn’t enough to feed family

Our final story in this week’s Last Week in Weed is that of a 32-year-old father from Manchester who was recently convicted of dealing cannabis which he claimed was to top-up his Universal Credit payment to support his family.

It was reported in the ‘Manchester Evening News’ (a Reach PLC property) last week that a man was stopped by non-uniformed officers in the Skelmersdale, Lancashire area last May. The officers stopped the man in a black VW Passat after witnessing “what appeared to be a suspicious exchange at the driver’s window before the vehicle drove off.” 

The officers tailed the car before performing a stop and search procedure on the driver and the vehicle. In the car, police found 10 deals worth an estimated £215 and around £3,000 on the driver. The man claimed that around half of the cash came from the legal sale of another car and the rest was made from dealing to help cover his bills as he had recently lost his job. He was released on bail pending further investigation. 

A month later the same man was pulled over again by police who claimed that they had spotted him “acting suspiciously.” The subsequent stop and search again led to the discovery of cannabis valued at £120 and extensive messages advertising and arranging other deals. The man once again gave the same defence and informed the officers that he was already on bail for the previous month’s arrest. 

The man was candid and forthcoming at every step along the way within the ‘justice’ system and explained that he dealt to subsidise his low income on Universal Credit. The additional income helped top-up the UC payment which only provided £135 a week for him and his family to live off. An amount he quite correctly claimed was not enough to support his family. 

Legal counsel for the defendant David Lacide argued in court that “his client had been unusually candid and co-operative both with the police and the court” and admitted that “there was an ‘element of immaturity’ about why his client decided to get involved in crime but said he now regretted it” He finished by stating that his client was now back in ‘legitimate’ work and argued that a suspended sentence would be more beneficial”

Despite the defendant’s candour he was still sentenced to 12 months in prison. When delivering the verdict last week the judge said that he was ‘at the end of the road.’ 

Well, by removing him from his family home and ensuring that he cannot continue to earn a ‘legitimate’ living you certainly have forced him down a dead-end road. The court’s decision to send him down condemns his already struggling family into further financial hardship and creates the perfect environment for the cycle to repeat itself all over again.

Ultimately, it was his history of offences dating back to 2004 and a near-identical conviction in 2017 that was the final nail in his coffin so to speak. This conviction is emblematic of the postcode lottery that is cannabis law enforcement across the 43 constabularies in England and Wales. In some you will be ignored in others you will be actively targeted and sought out for prosecution.

If this man’s arrest had occurred in one of the more lenient constabularies he may have only faced a caution or a small fine if he was not eligible for the checkpoint diversion schemes mentioned in the main story of this blog. 

Let’s face it prohibition doesn’t work, it cannot work. There is no punishment harsh enough, no risk large enough to prevent people from utilising the trade and sale of cannabis or other drugs to earn enough money to live day-to-day. 

We need to immediately end the criminalisation of the pre-existing community, culture, and industry and work towards legitimising, regulating, and normalise the already well-established and highly criminalised market. They deserve a seat at the table when deciding the future of any kind of ‘legalised’ or ‘decriminalised’ cannabis market because without them we wouldn’t even be able to have these kinds of discussions. 

We must ensure that the thousands of other individuals in this same position are no longer criminalised and can be allowed to make a living in the emerging UK cannabis industry. All while building the industry of the future, providing for their families, and paying tax along the way. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

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