Besides the pandemic, most home growers across the world pointed to other motivations that were in line with our 2012 findings: wanting a product that is healthier and cheaper, while avoiding contact with criminals.
Three-quarters of respondents report that they grow cannabis because they get pleasure from doing so. Nearly half report that they are growing for their own medical use. And while 15% report growing to supply others with cannabis for medical use and 15% supply others for recreational use, our growers are not acting as drug dealers: only 4% reported selling cannabis for profit.
Sure enough, our preliminary findings suggest that COVID-19 has affected domestic cannabis cultivation around the world. With nearly 5,000 participants at the time of writing, 16% report only becoming involved in cannabis growing since the pandemic. There are 11% of respondents saying that having more time at home was why they were growing, while 8% cite increased cannabis prices during the pandemic as a motivating factor.
Lancaster University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
Keeping up with cannabis
Gary Potter has previously received funding from the British Academy/Leverhulme small grants scheme.
In 2020, we launched our second international survey to see how cultivation was being affected by this shifting backdrop. This time we looked at 18 countries, adding France, Georgia, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Uruguay to the original 11, while also running a survey for people in non-participating countries. A global pandemic and national lockdowns had not been part of our planning, but of course we added questions to find out the effects.
But if lockdown has led a significant number of people to start growing their own cannabis, it is also important to note that the vast majority of our participants were growing it already. And while many respondents (18%) reported growing more under lockdown, one in ten said they were growing less or had stopped altogether. Meanwhile, organised crime continues to supply a large chunk of the UK cannabis market.
Since COVID-19 has affected almost every area of life, you would expect it to affect drug use and drug markets. People have been spending more time at home. Social interactions have been limited, including opportunities to take drugs with friends or to obtain them from the usual sources. Meanwhile, national and international drug supply networks have been disrupted.
In 2012, we surveyed growers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and the US to find out more about small-scale growing, and how and why they these people got involved. Most turned out to be regular people – with normal jobs, normal family arrangements, and no more involvement in drug dealing or other crime than any other section of the public.
Thought to be one of the UK’s largest glasshouses, the 45-acre glasshouse in Wissington, Norfolk, sits in an area known for the growing of crops, vegetables and fruit, from peas and beans to tomatoes and strawberries.
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The luscious green plants stretch as far as the eye can see. Row after row, lovingly tended in a glasshouse that’s roughly the same size as 34 football pitches.
Those parents are then used to create “clones” grown on an industrial scale in the glasshouse at Wissington. Cuttings taken from them and put into small pots are bathed in light to accelerate the growing process then moved into the main glasshouse and provided with all the water and nutrients they need.