The change in sentencing guidelines may be a response to improved genetics and growing techniques that produce larger yields in modern cannabis plants.
Categories of harm – 1 (lowest) to 4 (highest) – are set by the Sentencing Council based on “output or potential output… determined by the weight of the product or number of plants/scale of operation.”
Cannabis is a Class B drug in the UK, with possession carrying a maximum sentence of op to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, and supply/production carrying a maximum sentence of Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
As well as the limit for what is considered a category 4 harm reducing from nine to seven plants, what is considered a category 3 harm is being reduced from 28 to 20 plants.
While they offer no legal protection, the cards urge police officers to use their discretion when dealing with cannabis patients who produce them.
James, a grower who has been raided before, has recently registered his garden under the tagged collective model. He told me: "This scheme allows us to show that we are not commercial growers if we do get another knock at the door. And it shows the authorities that whilst cultivation is illegal at the moment, we are trying to do it in as professional a manner as possible and be responsible."
Nine tagged plants
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In Colorado, cannabis is tracked by batch and by gram from seed to sale. This system of regulation was another source of inspiration for Greg, who sees such moves as an important part of cannabis coming out of the underground and becoming an accepted part of society. "This is about taking cannabis into our own hands and away from criminals," he says. "The tags are about knowing your cannabis has been grown properly, cleanly, and is of medical quality. The tags are about being ethical—knowing that acquiring your medication or your recreational drug doesn't fund the dealing of hard drugs, sex trafficking, or other real crime."
Another grower under the UKCSC scheme, Trev, has confidence in the project. He says: "Sooner or later we'll hit a tipping point where the police have to work far more effectively with us, rather than against us. The same will happen vice versa, which all goes towards community relations and cracking down on crime gangs. The tags show the police that I'm part of something bigger than myself. It shows them that I'm part of a culture that would far sooner work with them for change."