Are the police really stupid? By that I mean are they utterly thick, incapable of logical thought and reason? Events of this week would seem to indicate they are, which is actually quite a worrying development.

On Monday ACPO – The Association of Chief Police Officers – published a paper concerning “The national problem profile (of the) commercial cultivation of Cannabis 2012” – see the press release here.

Essentially the police are admitting that despite a concerted effort on their part to crack down on commercial cannabis farms they are finding ever more.

The problem profile, which is the third to be published since 2008, shows an increasing number of farms being detected; 7,865 projected for 2011/12 compared with 6,866 in 2009/10 when the last problem profile was published.

In true sycophantic style the BBC reported this without critical analysis and allowed the police airtime – even on respected news programmes like The Today Programme – to give their interpretation of developments, but we’ve come to expect that.

Given the high priority the police have been to trying to close down cannabis farms over the past 5 or 6 years it’s not looking too good at all:

The number of cannabis production offences continues to rise with 16,464 offences projected for 2011/12 up from 14,982 offences recorded in 2010/11

Not only that, but as always with this sort of thing, the nature of the farms is changing.

•There is a shift back to smaller residential or domestic premises as opposed to large-scale commercial and industrial property
•There is an emergence of the “multiple site” model whereby a large number of people are employed to manage small scale factories across multiple residential areas

Prohibition is like trying to nail jelly to the ceiling, as this all demonstrates yet again, it simply doesn’t work. Speaking from another planet, ACPO lead on cannabis cultivation Allan Gibson said:

“Commercial cannabis cultivation continues to pose a significant risk to the UK. Increasing numbers of organised crime groups are diverting into this area of criminality but we are determined to continue to disrupt such networks and reduce the harm caused by drugs.

“This profile provides a detailed analysis of the current threat from commercial cultivation of cannabis and the work undertaken by law enforcement agencies to combat the threat. It provides a framework to facilitate future planning and decision-making for preventative, legislative and enforcement activity to make the UK a hostile environment for cannabis cultivators.”

The problem of course is the police are trying to fight the motor of capitalism, the laws of supply and demand. That is the first indication that perhaps they are just a little on the thick side if they think that all the repression in the world could hope to defeat this primal motivational force. There is money to be made, this means there will always be people willing to have a go at making that money and so there will always be cannabis cultivation.

Another indication that the police are stupid comes with this observation:

Intelligence suggests the purchase of seeds and equipment from local hydroponics and head shops is on the increase. This may result in an increase in small-scale cultivations feeding social supply

Which means that the police aren’t differentiating between criminal gangs running a business and hobby growers.

What makes the police appear really, totally and utterly brain-dead stupid is because, apparently, they don’t seem to understand that the reason the trade is gifted to organised crime in this way is because of the regime they are bringing about. It is because the police would take out anyone who is willing to be responsible and accountable for producing cannabis that the whole trade is gifted to criminals.

Let’s set a few things straight: Firstly there are essentially two types of grower. On the one hand is the enthusiast who takers a pride in his hobby, on the other is the sort of outfit motivated by easy money with little or no interest in the product beyond the dosh it produces. We’ll use two terms to distinguish these two types: Hobby grows and Commercial grows. A large proportion (most?) of commercial grows are run by organised criminal gangs.

The police are right to warn about criminal commercial cannabis cultivation. More often than not these farms are highly dangerous in terms of fire hazards, exploitative in terms of coercions and violence and feed into other forms of organised crime and even terrorist networks. The only interest they have in the product is to produce a high turn-over of something that looks good and so fetches a high price.

Hobby grows on the other hand are not any of these things and what the police are seeing with their “intelligence” is in large part an increase in the number of people growing their own with the intention of avoiding the very same criminal supply networks the police are so concerned about.

Hobby growers take a pride in the product they produce, they do so in their own homes and so have a direct interest in health and safety when it comes to electricity and fire hazards.

In short, hobby growers are not the problem – other that the fact they produce cannabis which the police try to prevent. Hence the police deliberately fail to distinguish between commercial grows and hobby grows when presenting information like this. Of course hobby growers are easy to detect and easy to take out because they don’t fight back, so busting hobby growers keeps the arrest rates high and makes the figures look good. All it does though is to keep the trade in the hands of the people the police claim to be fighting. Busting hobby growers not only doesn’t deal with the problem the police are highlighting, it actually makes it worse.

As a sidenote, the term “hobby grower” as used here also includes people who grow cannabis for medical use.

This whole situation has its roots in the wider war on drugs. In days gone by there wasn’t a home grow industry in the UK, we used to source cannabis from producer countries – mostly North Africa. But the police closed that supply down which created the home grow industry. Largish sized grow ops popped up to satisfy demand and the police targeted them and put them out of business. So the industry was gifted to the sort of people who can protect themselves, who will put up a  fight if the police come for them.

In short, the police have created the problem they are now warning about. They really should be aware of this cause and effect situation, if they are not then they are truly stupid, dumb beyond belief.

Of course the police aren’t stupid, what they are is an arm of the government and so they can be trusted to present their case  in a  way that supports government policy. So they lie. The sort of lie they come out with is a lie by omission, but that is still a lie which means they can’t be trusted to present the situation as it really is. Of course if the police were to tell the truth it would undermine the prohibition policy utterly, so they don’t. Likewise if the BBC were to ask some probing questions when stuff like this comes up on news programmes the charade would also come crashing down. Dream on, it isn’t going to happen, the corruption that drives prohibition comes right from the top of the British establishment,

If this were as far as it went things would be bad enough, but this madness goes further.

On Friday Newcastle university announced it was working with the police to develop new surveillance techniques to help int he fight against cannabis cultivation.

To launch the new initiative, a two-day conference is being held in Newcastle from today which will bring together individuals and organisations who have a key role to play in combating the problem of cannabis cultivation including the Home Office, ACPO, regional fire and police services and energy companies.

None of which of course begins to deal with the cause of the problem, which is prohibition. What it’s likely to lead to is more public money being poured into another form of mass surveillance in an attempt to underpin a failed strategy.

There is only one way to deal with this problem, which is to allow some form of regulated legal commercial trade, failing that at least take the hobby growers out of the picture by allowing some form of non-commercial supply. Allowing a legitimate supply side for cannabis would solve the problem of criminal cannabis farms overnight, ever-increasing repression doesn’t stand a hope in hell.

Footnote: On the same day this ACPO press release was issued, police in Essex issued a warning about contaminated cocaine. According to the BBC

The warning to people in Essex was issued after an 18-year-old needed specialist heart treatment and another man was taken into intensive care.

Essex Police said both had taken cocaine and warned that dangerous batches could be in circulation.

The advice from the police?

“Regular drug users are reminded not to source substances from unknown suppliers while others are advised to refrain from ingesting illegal drugs.”

Yet again of course the BBC report didn’t highlight the fact that this problem is the direct result (indeed the aim of) the prohibition policy. The government and police have caused this warning to be needed. Prohibition not only creates crime, it kills.