Combatting cannabis cultivation: lessons from a Crime Reduction

Combatting cannabis cultivation: lessons from a Crime Reduction framework
Part of panel proposal Tom Decorte on cannabis cultivation
Gary Potter
Lecturer in Criminology
London South Bank University, UK
Drug-crop cultivation is traditionally seen as a problem associated with developing
countries. Drug plants are often grown in geographically remote areas, beyond the
control of central government (or under the control of rogue narcostates) and/or
characterised by socio-political unrest (including armed struggle) and economic
under-development. Failure of drug-crop eradication efforts is often blamed on these
conditions (Farrell, 1998).
Cannabis cultivation in the UK (as in other Western countries) is increasingly
prelavent with domestic production now counting for a larger share of the market than
traditional overseas sources. Cannabis cultivation is illegal, yet it continues to expand.
Police efforts against this criminal activity are of limited success. The failure of drug
crop eradication efforts in developed nations clearly needs different explanations to
failure in the developing world.
Drawing on ethographic fieldwork, news reports of cultivation and its detection, and
official sources, this paper considers some of the challenges facing law-enforcement
and eradication efforts. Some challenges are inherent in the nature of the act of
cannabis cultivation, the cannabis plant itself, and the ideologies and motivations of
growers. Others stem from the adaptive responses of growers – there conscious efforts
to reduce both the chances of being detected and the impact if they are detected.
Viewing cannabis cultivation as a crime prevention problem and applying the
analytical frameworks of Situational Crime Prevention (Clarke, 1995), Routine
Activity Theory (Cohen and Felson, 1979) and Community Crime Prevention (e.g.
Crawford, 2007) it becomes easier to understand the difficulties of policing cannabis
cultivation – and possible to make some suggestions as to the way forward.
Clarke, R. (1995) “Situational Crime Prevention” Crime and Justice 19:91-150
Cohen, L. and Felson, M. (1979) ‘Social Change and Crime Rate Trends: A Routine
Activity Approach’ American Sociological Review 44:588-608
Crawford, A. (2007) “Crime Prevention and Community Safety” in M. Maguire, R.
Morgan and R. Reiner (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (4th ed.) Oxford:
Oxford University Press
Farrell, G. (1998) “A global empirical review of drug crop eradication and United
Nations’ crop substitution and alternative development strategies” Journal of Drug
Issues 28 (2) pp. 395-436