Edmonton, May 28-30, 2023

Due to the numerous requests from LPs. Micro and Craft growers along with some of the largest cannabis retail stores in the nation, Grow Up has decided to bring our award winning show to Alberta. We will be hosting our 7th Conference and Expo at the Edmonton Convention Centre in beautiful downtown Edmonton.

Two young men caught operating cannabis site worth over $700K claim they are victims of ‘human trafficking’

Nov 14, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

No further proceedings planned

Article content

The Crown reserves the right to proceed in the future, but as it stands, two young men implicated in a £450,000 ($706,500) illegal cannabis grow have been let go after claiming they were the victims of human trafficking.

Advertisement 2

Story continues below

Article content

On January 4, the 21- and 18-year-olds were arrested after Lanarkshire Police seized 748 illegal cannabis plants, noted a police tweet issued Jan. 12. The value of the plants was estimated to be £448,800 ($704,616).

Article content

  1. A study published last month from the University of Cambridge found that migrants arrested for working on cannabis grows are often victims of trafficking and ‘debt bondage.’ / Photo: Getty Images

    Report: Illegal migrants are being trafficked in the U.K., forced to work on cannabis farms

  2. According to the report, the labourers come from a pool of restaurant workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 closures. /

    Exploited Chinese immigrants were recruited into illicit cannabis operation, report shows

  3. Image for representation. It was determined that his grandmother had brought him to the location about three to four months earlier. /

    Probe launched into suspected labour trafficking involving 11-year-old found at illegal weed grow

Recreational cannabis remains illegal throughout the U.K., with supply and production carrying a maximum penalty of as long as 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

Illegal grow found in former bank

According to the Daily Record, the plants and sophisticated growing equipment were located on the site of a former Royal Bank of Scotland in Bellshill. The two men were charged with producing cannabis and bypassing the electricity meter.

Advertisement 3

Story continues below

Article content

At the time of the raid, police said the grows are not only illegal, but present a major fire risk “since overloaded electrical circuits with cheap wiring and lights present a highly flammable set-up in a ‘greenhouse’ style environment,” Glasgow World reported.

It’s not the first time that illegal cultivators have banked on former banks as an ideal place to set up shop.

Earlier this month, three Albanian men were sentenced in connection with an 850-plant grow-op, estimated to have a street value of £731,000 (about $1.1 million), found in a former bank in Cornish. The tri received sentences of 40 months, 20 months and 16 months, per Cornwall Live.

In early 2021, police announced finding a sophisticated set-up with about 1,000 cannabis plants in the former HSBC branch in East Yorkshire. The illegal farm, spread across three floors and 10 rooms of the former financial institution, was said to have a street value of around half a million pounds $785,000).

Advertisement 4

Story continues below

Article content

Finding not only the illegal grow, but that electricity was being stolen to power the farm, Hully Dail Mail reported at the time that two individuals were found and arrested on suspicion of being involved in the production of cannabis.

And in October 2021, still, in the U.K., police unearthed a cannabis factory containing 300 plants and cultivation in Cranbrook. Neighbours alerted police after noticing that the door to the town’s former Barclay’s Bank had been broken, according to KentOnline.

Case referred to Home Office

With regards to the most recent case, after the two men claimed they themselves had been trafficked, as per the usual course, prosecutors referred the case to the Home Office, the lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, crime, fire, counter-terrorism and police. The Crown Office has confirmed there will be no further proceeding, the Daily Record reports.

Advertisement 5

Story continues below

Article content

Reuters reported way back in 2015 that organized criminal gangs are exploiting vulnerable people, including children, and forcing them to cultivate cannabis in the U.K. Large-scale weed farming is linked to money laundering, distributing class A drugs, human trafficking and illegal immigration, the news outlet reported.

U.K. researchers wrote in a study, published in the summer of 2020: “Given reluctance or inability to frame the police response to cannabis farms under modern anti-slavery legislation, policing agencies should consider adopting more detailed practice guidelines to officers on how to react to the complex challenges involved, including the investigative opportunities that may help unearth modern slavery on cannabis farms through greater encouragement of victim accounts.”

Advertisement 6

Story continues below

Article content

Trafficking victims may be unable to leave ‘despite an unlocked door’

Heather Strang, the study’s senior author, made clear “the abuses of freedom in cannabis farm cases do not tally with traditional perceptions of slavery. Victims may be held against their will, forced to work and unable to leave, despite an unlocked door.”

Information released in 2017 by Anti-Slavery International notes that “although trafficked persons have been exploited in the U.K. through a range of criminal activities, they have most commonly been forced to work in cannabis farms and participate in street criminality, such as pickpocketing and ATM theft.”

As per the latest decision not to proceed with the case against the two young men, the Daily Record quotes a Crown Office spokesperson as saying: “Scotland’s prosecutors are committed to protecting the human rights of the victims of trafficking.”

Advertisement 7

Story continues below

Article content

BBC reported earlier this year that two Albanian men caught at a cannabis factory in Glasgow were freed from prison after it was found that they, too, had been trafficked. The duo was originally arrested at a converted industrial building in late 220 where a weed farm worth £9.5 million was found.

They later pleaded guilty to drug charges, but the Home Office investigation showed the individuals were too afraid to explain what had happened because of potential consequences for themselves and their families.

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with feedback and story tips at thegrowthop@postmedia.com

Advertisement 1

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

This post was originally published by our media partner here.

Grow Up – September 11-13, 2022
Niagara Falls Convention Centre, ON

News from Grow Up Media partners