The Association of Chief Police Officers has released information showing that the number of cannabis production offences is on the rise.
The ACPO UK National Problem Profile ‘Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis 2012’  says that the commercial cultivation of cannabis still poses a significant risk to the UK.
There are says the report an increasing number of cannabis farms being detected with the figure more than doubling from the April 2007 to April 2008 baseline of 3,032 to a projected figure of 7,865 for 2011/2012. The report does say however that the increase in numbers has stabilised.
This increase though has led to an increase in “…robberies, burglaries and violence (including the use of firearms) linked to cannabis farms”.
There is also an increase towards smaller scale cannabis factories where “…domestic or residential premises are the favoured location with diversion into multi-occupancy premises to reduce risk”. Many of those caught claim that they plants are for ‘personal’ use, but the numbers in each are above the 25 plant (ACPO) threshold above which commercial cultivation is indicated. There is also says the report “…evidence of “taxing” (stealing) of crops and debt bondage being used to control local individuals”.
Over the two years since the last ACPO report on the matter 1,096,797 cannabis plants have been seized with a street value of “207,368,447 based on a price of Â£134 per ounce.
The rise in the number can be explained by the growers (or ‘gardeners’) moving away from large scale production sites in order to minimise the overall risk should one individual farm be detected. This is a reversal of what was found in the 2010 report.
ACPO also says that the number of personal use cultivation offences has risen with the economic downturn and the fall in deal weights. This coupled with an increase in the purchase of seeds may result in these small scale producers feeding social supply.
Other factors says ACPO are that cannabis cultivation is not considered a priority as dealing with class A drugs is considered more important and that there are missed opportunities for finding linked cannabis factories.
The Sun also recently reported that there are ‘thousands’ of these factories in the UK and that apart from satiating local demand some of the production was actually being exported to such places as Amsterdam, a place normally thought to be a production site in its own right.
A ‘cannabis farm’ is defined by ACPO as:
Any premises, whether commercial or residential, shall be deemed a cannabis farm if it has the following:
The premises, or part therein, has been adapted to such an extent that normal usage would be inhibited and usually present within the premises, or part therein, are items solely concerned for the production
of cannabis, i.e.:
High intensity lighting
Ventilation / Extraction fans
Any other associated equipment, and / or
Electricity meter bypassed (abstraction of electricity)
The overall appearance of the venue, in combination with any available intelligence will provide an indication as to whether the site is, was, or is intended to be a cannabis farm. It is irrelevant how many plants are present on the site. For example, there may be no plants if the site has been made ready to commence cultivation. Alternatively the crop may have already been harvested and only the remnants of the harvested crop will be apparent.