wot? no dope?

Oliver Bennett on a shortage you probably won't have heard about at your local supermarket

"No dope, no hope," said the Furry Freak Brothers, the iconic 1970s cartoon characters. If so, then this must be a real bummer of a summer for the nation's estimated 2 million potheads. For the UK is apparently in the middle of a hashish famine. The shortage has got experts guessing and the Internet, a favourite forum of Nineties cannabis "activists", humming with rumours. "Resin has been short since about March," says Matthew Atha, a research and information consultant to solicitors dealing with cannabis cases. Harry Schapiro, of the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependency, has been "hearing about the drought for some time. It seems to be nationwide."

Supposed reasons for the shortage are legion and colourful. One is that a senior bent Dutch cop has been fired. "He is supposed to have been responsible for letting through some 400 tons a year," says Atha. Another is that big dealers are working as a cartel and stockpiling hashish in order to push up prices, which have been stable for about eight years at around pounds 25 to pounds 30 a quarter ounce.

Changing patterns of smuggling may have something to do with it. "The emphasis is shifting from large boatfuls to smaller quantities being smuggled more frequently," says Russell Cronin, spokesman for the Legalise Cannabis Campaign. There is also the steady shift of smuggling gangs from bulky dope consignments to more easily-hidden Class A drugs.

But most agree that the likeliest reason lies in Morocco, the biggest importer of hashish to the UK, which is reported to have clamped down on its producers. Some think this is due to an aid deal with the US; or that it is part of a general increase of despotism in the Maghreb; or that diplomatic difficulties with Spain mean that Iberian smuggling lines are down.

Whatever the reason for the dope deficit, pundits are concerned that dabblers may move to Class A drugs. Indeed, Schapiro cites the increasing practice of people mixing heroin in to their joints. "There is a pick- and- mix attitude within the drug culture," he says. A major downer, perhaps - but all is not lost. While hash stocks might be low, home-grown herbal marijuana is flooding on to the market. Once a last resort, home-grown is now a sophisticated player, grown in hi-tech "hydroponic" conditions, genetically-engineered, market-gardened and sold as named strains such as Skunk and Northern Lights.

"Home-grown has come out of the closet - and I do mean closet," says Cronin. "The implication of the word has changed. It used to mean lousy grass; now it equally means super-premium grass like Skunk. It is fresher and often stronger than imported weed." If the Moroccan does return, it may have to try a little harder. Indeed, in Amsterdam, the world's most demanding dope mega-mart, smokers actively choose hydroponic weed. Northern Lights, for instance, is a sativa-indica cross, sturdy and low- growing with massive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the active component)- laden heads. In other words, two tokes and you're caned.

But home-growing is a risky business in the UK. Anyone caught with plants, even a few small ones, will usually be charged with possession with intent to supply: an imprisonable offence. "It is bulky and neighbours often spot it or notice the smell," says Atha, who has closely observed the spiralling number of grow-your-own busts. "Some people do grow to sell, but not many - and it is not as lucrative as the police say it is. You can be sure that any 'street prices' quoted have been hiked up."

The march of home-grown continues unabated, and it features heavily in the dopers' "Olympics": the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Last year a winner was White Widow, a homegrown strain "so rich in THC that it glistens", according to one Dutch market player. And there is now a Dutch-grown hashish, Skuff, a resinous variety of Skunk. "It's comparable to the finest hand-made traditional hash," says Cronin. Perhaps they should sell it to the Moroccans.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk