In defence of the weed growers

Dear Editor,

For obvious reasons I am withholding my name and address but would be interested to hear, via this letters page, what other readers think about the recent splurge of arrests and apprehensions of small marijuana producers here in the Algarve.

As someone who has enjoyed the occasional puff for many years, I am concerned that the police are misdirecting their efforts. Recent reports in this newspaper talk of individuals growing a few plants in a clearing in the forest that they then sell locally and no doubt enjoy themselves as well. These people are hardly criminals, and what they are effectively doing is removing much of the criminality involved in the marijuana industry.

Most of the pot in the world is grown in Morocco, and the poor farmers in the Riff mountains are at the mercy of criminal gangs who smuggle the drug across to Spain or Portugal, to be purchased by more criminals who then sell it on to local dealers and then street pushers around Europe.

It is an industry plagued with violence and apart from the (relatively) benign nature of the drug itself (which is certainly a safer drug than alcohol) the trafficking is surrounded by as much filth as that of hard drugs. I have just finished reading an interesting book on the subject: “HASH – The Chilling Inside Story of the Secret Underworld Behind the World’s Most Lucrative Drug” by Wendsley Clarkson that was published earlier this year.

It is a fascinating read and certainly would make any innocent pot smoker think twice about how and from where they procure their puff. I pity these small local farmers here in the Algarve who have nurtured their plants so they can sell directly to the end user.

The apprehension of this local weed can only have the effect of increasing demand for the drugs smuggled in by criminal gangs. I should add that the consumption of marijuana is not illegal in Portugal, and a small change in the law permitting small plantations for personal use would do a great deal more good than harm.

Finally, I believe there was a mistake in the article printed last week about the man arrested for growing just 15 marijuana plants. Your article states that 117 grammes of cannabis seeds were apprehended, of which 108 grammes were crushed and ready for consumption. This is the first time I have ever heard of anyone intentionally smoking or consuming the seeds by other means. I expect that the text in fact was referring to the dried buds of the plant which contain the highest levels of the drug THC.

Name and address withheld