The cultivation of cannabis in the UK has become increasingly common in recent years. These grows range from a handful of plants grown in a small cupboard to large scale industrial units or houses extensively modified and containing hundreds or even thousands of plants.
Personal Grower or Commercial Supplier?
Perhaps the biggest challenge that is faced when considering a cannabis growing facility is whether this was simply an attempt to grow enough cannabis for a single user or production of the drug where the intention was for some distribution. For these purposes even distribution amongst friends whether for profit or not represents supply and is viewed far more seriously in law.
The distinction between the two is often blurred and much will be left to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to decide the appropriate charge. For the cultivator of cannabis who is deemed to have grown the drug on a commercial basis rather than simply for their own use then the penalty is almost inevitably a custodial sentence. A conviction at this level is almost inevitably followed by an investigation into assets and the potential benefit gained under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) .
Estimates of benefit are often based upon the potential number of crops that the grower may have previously produced and the potential value of these crops. The grower may then find that the court seeks to strip them of the benefits derived from the offence and the potential benefit of even fairly modest grows when assessed over an extended period can run into thousands of pounds.
How is a cannabis cultivation scene assessed?
In many cases a sample number of plants are seized as being representative. The remaining plants are often destroyed immediately along with all equipment. Where there is the potential that the growing facility could be commercial in nature or the grower disputes that they are cannabis the representative plants will be forwarded for forensic analysis.
The plants are typically dried, stripped and weighed. The approach taken can vary considerably and some forensic providers and police officers will consider quantities of leaf and flowering top material to be a usable product, others will only utilise the flowering tops (although in practice the flowering tops are considered any flowering material contained on the plant).
If the plants are flowering and in the latter stages of growth then the yield from the representative plants is weighed and multiplied by the total number of plants.
e.g. Single representative plant yields 25 grams then based upon the 10 plants recovered from the address yielding a similar amount the potential yield would be 250 grams. A valuation is then applied to the potential yield by the police typically based upon a price of £10 to £15 per gram. (Please fill in our drug price survey to assist us with accurate valuations). The potential value of this grow would range from £2,500 to £3,750.
But what if the plants aren’t flowering, how will they be valued then? Well in real terms plants at that stage of growth are effectively worthless but forensic providers will attempt to predict the potential yield based upon previous samples of cannabis plants and average yields. There can be considerable difference in the estimates provided which have increased considerably in recent years. Typically these will range from 40 grams to 56 grams per plant although estimates of up to 1,000 grams per plant have been encountered.
If ten plants are discovered then the estimated yield could be as high as 560 grams. At a street value of £10 to £15 per gram then even a modest grow is considered to be potentially worth £8,400. If we then factor in the potential value of the leaf material, often valued at £5 per gram then it easy to see why even a modest growing facility can be considered to be commercial.
As the vast majority of cannabis growers now utilise a method based loosely on the “Sea of Green” then it is common for past and future crops to be included in the valuation. Cuttings are commonly valued as mature plants despite being at an immature stage of growth and little consideration is given to potential failure rates. The grower may cultivate 20 cuttings with an expected attrition rate of 50 % leaving ten viable plants to replenish the more mature crop. If discovered though then for the purposes of yield estimates and valuations for court proceedings the yield is likely to be based upon 30 plants with little consideration of the age of the plant. In such circumstances a simple ten plant grow and 20 cuttings can result in a potential yield of 1,680 grams with an estimated value of over £25,000.
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