When most purchase a £20 bag from their dealer, the fact that they are probably funding child-slavery doesn’t cross their minds.

A great piece of investigative journalism by Al Jazeera has exposed this dark fact. 300 children per year are trafficked into the UK (According to the UK government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre organisation). Around 25% end up in cannabis factories.

While ten years ago, only 11% of the UK’s marijuana supply was grown locally, that figure now stands at 90%. Last year, UK law enforcement uncovered plants worth £250m. Trafficking victims have been discovered in all parts of England and Wales.

…Vietnamese children are often subject to debt bondage…

Although the police are uncovering growing numbers of Vietnamese cannabis rings, the ease with which they can relocate, begin production again, and transfer child-labour ensures that the problem will not fade away any time soon.

These Vietnamese children are often subject to debt bondage. As a consequence, they are forced to work in the UK until they have paid off the debt. In the UK, debt bondage sums range between £12,000 and £36,000. As a consequence, they are forced to work for years under slavery.

This debt often arises from Vietnamese gangs approaching families in Vietnam living in relative poverty. Promising their children education and a bright future in the UK, the children are then trafficked into the UK and forced to work until trafficking costs are paid off. Although notionally covering travel, accommodation, food and trafficking fees, charges are often inflated to ensure that the children are kept in slavery. 

Once in the UK, Vietnamese gangs often demand that the children destroy their travel documents – keeping their identities, and the cannabis networks, underground. This also makes it very difficult for the children to go to the authorities for help.

…alcohol and tobacco are more harmful that cannabis and LSD…

However, the UK government’s position on cannabis exacerbates the problem. This position was highlighted when Dr David Nutt was sacked from his position as a government drugs advisor. Dr Nutt stated that drugs should be classified according to the evidence of harm they cause, and produced evidence stating that alcohol and tobacco are more harmful that cannabis and LSD. 

The UK government, in ignoring scientific evidence, created the conditions within which enslaving Vietnamese children are profitable. Upon legalisation, the supply of cannabis would be stripped from the hands of Vietnamese child slavers.

Criminal gangs would lose business to taxable, legitimate cannabis retailers. Such retailers could be regulated, ensuring quality and limiting harm. The profits from such taxes could then be invested in drug education – ensuring that the population is educated enough to make an informed choice about their personal cannabis consumption.

Of course, the population will end up taking drugs upon legalisation – albeit without all the social damage caused by illegalisation. Legal or not, people will smoke pot.

About The Author

I am a recently graduated history student from the University of Reading. Wanabee journalist and avid blog-reader.

8 Responses

  1. Dan Ford

    A well thought-out and open minded article. I agree with the main points. Most, if not all, the problems associated with cannabis are caused by prohibition, rather than the plant itself. These problems range from the contamination of cannabis, to supply of cannabis to young children. It is in the area of age-restriction that prohibition has failed most disastrously. Under prohibition all the black-market dealer wants to see is a £10 note, he is not at all worried about the age of his customers.
    Under a legal and regulated supply system, this is very different. In Holland they have a semi-legal “coffee-shop” based supply, and the staff in these shops are very careful to ensure that they only sell to adults, they check I.D. for all customers. This approach also has the added benefit of completely separating the market for cannabis away from hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The result has been that the use of cannabis by children has been much reduced and adults may indulge in the pleasure without having to look over their shoulder all the time. At the same time use of heroin and cocaine in Holland is just a small percentage of the problem we have in the U.K., with very few ‘new recruits’ and most youngsters having a good knowledge that taking heroin is a bad move.


  2. Psychologist

    Good article, it definitely highlights some of the biggest problems caused by the unnecessary prohibition of cannabis.

    In the next election my vote will be going to whoever will end this madness.


  3. tim

    Legalise weed and u create a multi billion dollar taxable industry

    keep it illegal u loose money

    cameron is about making money

    he is also a idiot who says he smoked pot but its a bad thing really whats he on.

    Legalise it and stop letting the police profit as much as the crooks. I want to smoke and fund legit people todo so. Im not going to stop smoking because probation of a drug just doesnt work… who said that could it of been said around 1970

    sort it out UK


  4. hd420p

    Great article. As many have said and probably to paraphrase David Nutt “The biggest harm in cannabis is prohibition itself”

    Human traffiking, contaminated product, no age restrictions, theft of electricty.

    Taking cannabis away from unscrupulus criminals is the only sensible solution to protect adults and children alike from this nonsense

    I for one would pay a premium for proper organicly grown cannabis


  5. David D

    Very true, there’s no reason what so ever not to allow people to grow their own or purchase it legally and every reason to let them – rather then allowing criminals to profit let decent and sensible people create businesses and jobs, not just in selling it but through legitimate grow shops and etc.



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