Although Bicycology is no longer active as a group I still check our email account once in while. At the end of December we received an email asking for feedback or support regarding the Facebook page of a group called R.E.A.L. They don’t appear to have a website but their “About” page on Facebook describes the group as a “voluntary organisation prepared to engage in peaceful direct action to address the urgency [of] fuel poverty and the impact of climate change”.
Start of July 2012 London Critical Mass
Critical Mass is a cycling event typically held on the last Friday of the month in over 300 cities around the world. London Critical Mass has happened every last Friday for over 18 years, gathering on the South Bank under Waterloo Bridge from 6pm. At the start of the September 2005 Mass police were handing out copies of a letter from Superintendent Gomm which began:
Organisers of public processions are required by law to notify police at least 6 days before the event occurs of the date, time, proposed route and name and address of an organiser. Failure to do so makes the event unlawful.
Today I read yet another news item about police raiding a cannabis factory where they seized x number of cannabis plants with an estimated street value of y. I have no idea how they decide the “street value” of a cannabis plant so I thought I should investigate. I did a Google search for police “cannabis plants” “street value” and went through the first 100 of about 11,400 results. I was looking for reports of cannabis factory raids in the UK where the police gave both the number of plants seized and the estimated street value, but I also included some cases where police gave total figures over a certain time period or for a particular operation. Unsurprisingly all the reports were of indoor growing, usually in rented houses. Sometimes the wording was in the form “more than 1,000 plants” – I discounted these reports for not giving a specific figure but that still left me with 47 data points. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so before you get bored here is a chart I made:
As you can see, the most commonly used figure seems to be around £300 per plant. The smallest reported seizure was of 20 plants at a house in Lincoln in August 2007 “with some up to seven feet tall”. Unusually there was an estimate of the quantity of cannabis which they would have produced (about 2.8kg) as well as the so called “street value” which was given as £7,000, or £350 per plant. Towards the other end of the scale, in February 2009 police in Halesowen raided two properties in Claremont Street, finding an estimated 1,350 plants which they valued at about half a million pounds, or £370 per plant. Despite the difference in scale between these raids the claimed value per plant was very similar, but that was not always the case.
In April 2008 the Macclesfield Express reported that police had discovered what was believed to be one of Britain’s largest ever cannabis factories, housing 8,000 plants worth about £500,000 – a bargain at only £62.50 per plant. On the other hand, an article in a glossy magazine called PROPERTYdrum listed a number of raids including one in Telford in June 2010 in which £200,000 worth of cannabis plants were discovered – with a haul of only 200 plants they were apparently worth a whopping £1,000 each. Finally, there was a very recent report on the website of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary which mentioned Operation Viscount, targeting cannabis factories across Avon and Somerset. During this three month operation they claim to have seized 7,100 cannabis plants with an approximate street value of £6.6 million, a hefty £930 per plant.
In reality this is complete nonsense. Young plants are almost worthless because the only people who would be interested are growers, and they get them essentially for free by taking cuttings from a mother plant. Even a mature plant is not going to be worth much unless it is ready to harvest and the grower would not obtain “street value” for the crop because it would be sold wholesale to a distributor. Furthermore, a lot of growers are presumably using the “sea of green” method which packs a large number of plants into a small space at the expense of a low yield per plant. In reality I would be surprised if seized plants were worth more than £30 on average.
Prompted by police sabotage of the Big Green Gathering Des Kay, aka Professor Kayoss created a Facebook group to promote the idea of picnic in Regent’s Park on what would have been the final day of the festival. I signed up straight away and on Sunday I made the trek into London. The meeting point was at The Treehouse Gallery, an excellent project that is well worth a visit (go soon though because it ends on September 6th). I was one of the first few people to arrive and numbers steadily grew throughout the afternoon so that by about five o’clock there were probably about forty people gathered by the lake (as well as all the other people who were just visiting The Treehouse Gallery). There was some discussion about the events leading up to the cancellation of the BGG, whether people who had bought tickets would be getting their money back, and whether Mendip council would be sued for ruining children’s summer holidays and jeopardising the livelihoods of hundreds of traders. There is little doubt in my mind that the police had made a strategic decision to shut down the festival at all costs, primarily due to the planned presence of certain direct action focused environmental campaigning groups. No use crying over spilt milk though, and the majority of the afternoon was spent eating and socialising or just chilling out by the lake in the sunshine. I was having such a good time I ended staying till about eight o’clock before cycling back to Kings Cross and catching a train home. Big up to Des for getting it together, Matt for the tunes, and to everyone else who turned out.
Update – The Guardian published an article by George Monbiot on the subject of the BGG cancellation, see The Busybody State.