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We have examined over 100 cultivation systems in the course of criminal trials. Possession of cannabis seeds is not illegal, but any active steps taken to cultivate plants is an offence under sections 4 (production) or 6 (cultivation) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This would include watering, pruning, or even stripping usable material from harvested plants. Maximum penalties are the same as for dealing, i.e. up to 14 years imprisonment on indictment. The actual penalties will depend on the circumstances (determining whether "intent to supply" charges are brought), including the estimated yield, the "sophistication" of the system, and the potency of the plants. In practice, growing more than 2-3 plants can result in charges of "intent", certainly cultivation of sufficient plants to maintain self-sufficiency for a moderately heavy user over a growth cycle will almost certainly result in an "intent" charge, if not conviction. Penalties range from discharges to long terms of imprisonment, a first offence may attract a large fine, community service order, or short prison sentence. Second or subsequent offences, or where there is evidence of "commercial supply" (as opposed to "social supply", involving passing a joint, sharing cannabis or giving free to friends) will almost certainly attract a prison term. The chances of conviction increase substantially if police seize evidence they associate with supply, such as scales, cash, packaging materials (such as plastic food bags or clingfilm), or so-called "dealer lists". Our surveys show users who have grown cannabis are three times as likely to be "busted" each year than those who have not.
The CLCIA publish fairly accurate advice on the law and police practice on their website.
Growing cannabis is clearly a high risk activity, and few growers realise how seriously such offences are treated by the police and courts. Please warn your readers.
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