Cannabis is a controlled substance in the UK, and possession of it is punishable under the law by fines, criminal records and even jail time.
Cannabis is controlled and prohibited in the UK, much like in the rest of Europe. The British are very conservative when it comes to cannabis legalization and medical cannabis provisions. And while most people will get nothing more than a slap on the wrist if caught by a cop with cannabis in Britain, it’s still technically illegal.
The paradoxical thing about the UK is that a vast amount of cannabis is both grown and imported there. There are also hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and from different walks of life who use it regularly. So why haven’t the British government and the various other authorities caught up with the trend?
The answer to this question isn’t clear. The British have been into prohibiting cannabis for decades; while they enjoy some of the highest alcohol issue rates in Europe. Both Conservative and Labor governments have blocked cannabis legalization at every opportunity; although it seems that no lessons have been learned from legalization in the states.
There’s hardly even a medical facility for obtaining cannabis. The only example of this is a regulation introduced in November 2018. It states that specialists are allowed to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use. However, the progress on this is painfully slow.
The ironic thing is that cannabis is so openly used in certain parts of the UK, you’d assume it was legal. On a recent visit back home to London, I went to Camden Market one Sunday. Camden is known for being a hippy hangout with lots of head shops and interesting characters.
But I must have witnessed more than 20 people openly rolling or smoking CBD buds or cannabis in the streets, even when police officers were walking past. The cops saw what was going on and ignored it, turning a blind eye. But the way people purchase cannabis in the UK (illegally) has changed remarkably over the past 20 years. The amazing thing is that these days, most people are importing their cannabis straight from California!
As a teen living in London, It all started with $20 baggies on the back seat of the bus on the way home from school. Bear in mind I’m speaking of 20+ years ago, but those were the days before Super Skunk – or any skunk was available. Back then, we made do with illegally imported cannabis from Thailand or Jamaica, and at the time it sure packed a punch.
That cannabis has a slightly earthy aroma and likely contained no more than 10 percent THC tops. The thing was – and I only realized this retrospectively when I learned more about CBD – that cannabis was packed with CBD and I would estimate was probably a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio most of the time. Closer to today’s CBD flowers, the semi-legal hemp flowers.
I left the UK for sunnier shores decades ago, but I was shocked when I went to visit my mates there recently. After the day out in Camden, I went back to my buddy’s place and was shocked to see his wares. He had various tin cans, sealed like tennis ball holders, all imported from California and with clear labeling of THC and CBD levels. Strains like Gorilla Glue, Lemon Haze, and Hawaiin Kush were sitting there on the coffee table, waiting to be inspected. When I asked him where he had procured such bespoke cannabis, he told me, “I ordered it from my dealer.”
I looked perplexed, so he explained further. He opened WhatsApp and showed me a text message from his dealer – a guy from East London. There I saw a list of perhaps 30 different strains, including cannabis wax, shatter and THC vape pods. The prices next to each item were not cheap, especially in pounds, but also not wildly high.
My friend explained that the way things work these days in the UK is that your dealer sends you a weekly “menu” of items – similar to Weedmaps. You reply to the message with your order – a bit like online shopping. The amazing part for me is that the dealer then makes the order in California somehow and texts to confirm when the package has arrived by airmail. A week goes by and my old buddies are enjoying some of the best-grown herbs known to man.
Most of them also have potent THC vape pods, and most carry 3-4 different strains with them at any one time. It’s also a fact that there are many specially renovated grow houses all across the UK where high-quality indoor flowers packed with THC are grown. My friends prefer the American import, and after sampling it, I could see why.
With all that said, these are illegal practices and cannot be condoned – even if they are a natural result of 80 years of prohibition.
While it’s illegal to grow, buy, or sell cannabis in the UK, it’s no secret to law enforcement that many people smoke it. The tide in the UK is turning slowly, and it’s only a matter a time before more provisions for medical cannabis become available.
Whether the UK will take things on a recreational route in the future remains to be seen. For now, at least as far as my mates are concerned, it’s no big deal. They know that the fresh flowers they get from Cali are superior in quality and likely cheaper than what they’d pay if cannabis was regulated and sold in the UK.
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