Seven people have been killed in England and Wales in incidents linked to break-ins or attempted burglaries at houses or factories that have been converted into cannabis farms over the last five years. In May 2022, four Vietnamese nationals passed away in a fire at a disused mill in Oldham, near Manchester, which is believed to have been used for growing cannabis.
Grace Robinson, CEO of Black Box Research and Consultancy, stated, “Drug trafficking organizations have realized that growing cannabis in the UK is a more profitable and easier option than importing or smuggling it.” She further noted that due to the nature of the trade in illicit drugs, it is difficult for growers and sellers to seek justice through legal means, leaving them vulnerable to theft and violence. Robinson added that it is often children and vulnerable adults responsible for maintaining cannabis farms, hence those robbing them are rarely deterred by their presence.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said last month that young illegal immigrants were being trafficked across the English Channel and employed in “cannabis farms” or “prostitution.” Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick informed the House of Commons that of the 4,600 unaccompanied children who had been accommodated in hotels since July 2021, “200 children remain missing, 13 of whom are under 16 years of age, and only one of whom is female.” He said 176 of those 200 teenagers were Albanian nationals.
Cooper pointed out that there was no unit investigating the links between illegal immigration and organized crime like cannabis farming. Rob Barker, the campaign and communications lead at Barod, a substance misuse treatment provider in South Wales, said cannabis farms were very easy to set up and needed minimal training.
Eleven people aged from 17 to 51 have been charged with the murder of Xhovan Pepaj, a 25-year-old Albanian national who was stabbed to death while minding a cannabis factory in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in December 2021. The first of two murder trials is currently under way in a new “super court” in Loughborough in the Midlands.
Barker noted that although legalising cannabis could help reduce the violence associated with the black market by bringing the drug into a regulated and controlled environment, it would still have a black cannabis market, similar to the black alcohol and cigarette markets. He added that there had been a big increase in alcohol and drug consumption since the pandemic started due to the cost of living crisis and that people on low incomes were dealing drugs to “make ends meet.”
Since 2018, there have been 11 deaths that appear to have been linked to cannabis farming. The Epoch Times contacted the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Home Office but has not had a response.