Two British smugglers were hit with lengthy jail sentences after a sniffer dog discovered £10.2 million ($13.4 million) worth of cannabis hidden in rabbit hay in their truck. Mark Owens and Paul Seabrook were both handed nine years behind bars after being convicted of conspiring to supply cannabis.
The truck was pulled over on the Dartford Crossing between Essex and Kent back in 2016, but Owens and Seabrook have only just been sentenced. Owens pleaded guilty and Seabrook was found guilty via a trial, and Kent Police praised Sonny the sniffer dog for the discovery.
Many police forces in the UK turn a blind eye to cannabis, leading many to dub it “decriminalization by stealth”. Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, calls it a “de facto criminalization” and claims police “could not be less interested” in marijuana. Durham Police has gone public to say it no longer targets cannabis users and small growers. But the lengthy sentences handed down to Owens and Seabrook show just how seriously the British authorities take industrial-scale supply.
“We are committed to targeting the organized groups who believe the law does not apply to them and who put their own financial interests above all else,” said Detective Inspector James Derham of Kent Police. He added that he hopes the conviction shows that the force is “committed and equipped to tackling organized crime groups across the county and beyond”.
It followed news that Essex resident James Brooks was given a 32-month custodial sentence for growing cannabis in his home. He had been given an 18-month suspended sentence at Basildon Crown Court, but the Court of Appeal extended it to a 32-month custodial sentence. The Crown Prosecution mentioned the “devastating effects” drugs have on British communities, and reiterated its pledge to bring offenders to justice.
It all stands in stark contrast to the views of former justice secretary Lord Falconer, who called on the British government to legalize and regulate the supply of cannabis and other drugs. “I know my suggestions will provoke strong protests, but many scientists, doctors, politicians and police officers are coming round to this view,” he said.
CBD oil is legal to sell in the UK, and a special advisory panel is allowed to give the green light for patients to source medicinal cannabis to treat various illnesses. But recreational cannabis use, cultivation and supply are all outlawed for now. Yet the tide appears to be turning and the British government is under increasing pressure to follow Canada’s lead and regulate cannabis in order to cut crime and boost the economy.