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What Really Happened with That CBD Flower Arrest in the UK?

mark rivers
Written by Nicola Dowling

Mark Rivers, owner of the Mushroom Headshop and CBD botanicals shop, has become the first person in the U.K. to get a conviction for selling CBD Flower. Much like his trademark gold chains, this case has left its mark. An important precedent has been set.

Victim of ignorance or savvy profiteer? If you believe Mark Rivers, he didn’t know any better. After reviewing all the information at hand, the more cynical amongst us may suspect he willingly tried to pass off illegal products.

Already known to the police for selling Class B synthetic cannabinoids, he continued to sell formerly legal highs long after they were banned. Rivers tried to legitimize something he knew was illegal, blatantly flouting the law along with many others who mistakenly believe that pleading ignorance is a get out of jail free card.  

Misguided beliefs offer no immunity – you will still be prosecuted.

Mark Rivers declared on his Facebook page that he didn’t mind doing time in prison for a good cause and fighting for our rights. These noble intentions were soon abandoned when he realized this was not going to go away.

In truth, the greater good is not selling illegal products that bring the entire industry into disrepute. It serves only to undo the hard work that has been done by the CTA, its members, and all responsible companies throughout the sector who strive to self regulate and bring credibility to the CBD industry.

mark rivers

In a first, a U.K. dispensary owner in arrested and convicted

Despite previous threats of protests, petitions and touting the popular myth that the low THC content did not amount to an offence, it finally dawned on Mark Rivers that this was not an adequate defense and rather than go to trial, he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to sell, providing full details of his supplier.

Let’s be totally clear. There are no loopholes or grey areas no matter what your supplier tries to tell you.

Rule number one, never take legal advice from the person who stands to profit from you. They have no care beyond getting you to part with your cash. Once you purchase illegal goods, it is your responsibility alone and you that will face enforcement.

Trust the professionals. Miss Hitchens, a Home Office expert, sent a statement of proof that hemp flower is in fact, a controlled drug no matter what the THC content is.

This removes any shadow of doubt and leaves no place to hide – flower and bud is illegal. It can’t be stressed enough and the CTA have been saying it repeatedly for years. It is not legal, you cannot sell it. Do so and risk seizure of goods and assets, fines and/or legal procedure with the possibility of imprisonment.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, section 37:
[F1“cannabis” (except in the expression “cannabis resin”) means any plant of the genus Cannabis or any part of any such plant (by whatever name designated) except that it does not include cannabis resin or any of the following products after separation from the rest of the plant, namely—(a)mature stalk of any such plant,
(b)fibre produced from mature stalk of any such plant, and
(c)seed of any such plant;

Whether it is hemp or cannabis – MoDA makes no separate distinction. it is all classed as cannabis and is illegal. Only the stalk and seed become non controlled and therefore legal, once separated from the plant.

Everything else remains a controlled Class B drug and carries severe penalties.

  • The maximum penalty for possession of cannabis is five years imprisonment. A magistrate’s court can also impose a fine of up to £2,500.
  • If you’re prosecuted for supplying or producing, the maximum prison sentence is 14 years
mark rivers

These laws apply to both hemp and cannabis

Rivers was duly charged with possession with intent to supply a Class B drug, namely cannabis. This resulted in a fine, which under the circumstances, was deemed to be a very lenient sentence and one that he wisely decided not to appeal. In addition, failure to pay the fine within 3 months will result in an instant two month incarceration. Any future offences relevant to this will lead to further severe punishment.  

The judgement was based on the amount found, approx 7.76 grams and the amount earned. Anyone found with over 30 grams will face much stiffer penalties and custodial sentences.

The police can and will investigate sales to determine how much has been sold and earned. While this was a U.K. first, a nationwide crackdown is taking place and we can expect to see more of these cases appearing.  

Yes, the laws are outdated and need reviewing but we will only effect change by working alongside the authorities, professionally and within legal parameters. Irresponsible companies like the Mushroom Headshop and fellow high profile case, Canna Kitchen, risk undoing the steady progress that has been made and jeopardize an industry in its infancy.

Disturbingly, both attempted to claim the goods they sold were the same as every other legitimate CBD business in the area such as Holland and Barrett. A very poor tactic indeed and a last resort to try and tar everyone with the same brush in a bid to save themselves, regardless of the consequences.

Despite the negatives, this case serves as a stark warning to other sellers of flower and bud. Put simply, don’t do it.

Any person that would like help, guidance or a friendly chat about this can contact the CTA, there are no requirements to become a member.

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About the author

Nicola Dowling

Nicola Dowling is the Internal Compliance Officer for the Cannabis Trades Association by day and content writer by night, specializing in the CBD and Hemp industry. In addition, she enjoys helping people learn about the many benefits of cannabinoids. She is a member of the Admin team in the CBD Users UK Facebook support group.