Prohibition and Human Trafficking in the UK: Slaves Growing Weed?

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Earlier this month, a story broke but received very little attention: the UK cannabis supply, much of which officials believe is grown by domestic crime gangs, is often handled and grown by victims of human trafficking, given no choice in the matter. The gangs may steal their paperwork, essentially making it impossible for the workers to leave.

In a statement full of reefer madness rhetoric (warning that cannabis very potent these days, etc), law enforcement officials warned that both illegal immigrants (who are untraceable and will not be reported missing) and those in debt to the criminals running the marijuana grow operations can be forced to work on cannabis farms.

One of the most upsetting revelations was that 8 in 10 of the victims of trafficking saved from forced labor on cannabis farms in the UK in 2013 were children. While there is a new law in the works to address some of the forced labor and trafficking issues by criminalizing them, it is far from in place and only addresses the symptom, not the disease. The real issue here is cannabis prohibition.

If cannabis were a regulated product, there would be less financial incentive to run illegal grow operations, and therefore less need to force young immigrants into working at them.  Even now, as police forces across the UK are gearing up for a major enforcement effort on residential cannabis grow operations, they should know that their success will have next to no real impact on the black market. The only way to end the human rights abuses associated with black market cannabis cultivation is to create a legal and regulated market, reducing profits and therefore incentive to cultivate the plant illegally.


Photo Credit: sammisreachers under public domain via Pixabay