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Over 1,000 Arrested and 180,000 Cannabis Plants Seized in U.K. Crackdown

In an effort to combat illegal marijuana cultivation, law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom carried out a major operation called Operation Millie in June. The operation involved all police forces in England, Scotland, and Wales and resulted in the arrest of over 1,000 individuals and the seizure of more than 180,000 cannabis plants.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Serious and Organized Crime, Steve Jupp, stated that Operation Millie successfully disrupted a significant amount of criminal activity. This campaign, involving over 11,000 police officers across the U.K., was the largest cannabis eradication effort to date.

Aside from the massive plant seizure, authorities also confiscated 15 to 20 firearms, around 40 other weapons, and £650,000 in cash. The estimated value of the seized cannabis plants is £130 million. However, some critics argue that law enforcement tends to inflate these figures.

Raids Targeted Criminal Gangs

The purpose of Operation Millie was not solely to eradicate illicit marijuana cultivation but also to disrupt organized criminal gangs that fund other illegal activities with the proceeds generated from these operations. These gangs engage in offenses such as money laundering, violence, and trafficking in Class A drugs. The NPCC emphasizes that these offenses have a negative impact on communities.

According to Jupp, organized networks involved in cannabis production are connected to a range of serious criminal activities, including the importation of Class A drugs, modern slavery, violence, and exploitation.

Police noted that illicit cannabis growers used structures of various sizes to house their operations. These illegal farms have been discovered in buildings ranging from vacant residential homes to large industrial complexes. The sites can be hazardous due to electricity theft, which increases the risk of fire. Additionally, they are susceptible to water damage and strong odors.

Operation Millie not only disrupted criminal activity but also provided valuable intelligence for future law enforcement efforts across the country, according to Jupp. He emphasized that while cannabis-related crime is often considered “low level,” it is connected to patterns of exploitation and violence by organized crime groups.

U.K. Police Chiefs Call For Drug Decriminalization

In late 2021, the NPCC announced plans to decriminalize drug possession, including cannabis and cocaine. If implemented, this initiative would treat the possession of small amounts of recreational drugs as a public health issue for first-time offenders, rather than as a criminal offense.

The NPCC proposal, developed in collaboration with the College of Policing, aims to decriminalize the possession of Class A drugs like cocaine and Class B substances such as marijuana. Under this plan, individuals caught with illegal drugs can choose to attend drug education or treatment programs instead of facing prosecution. Completion of the program would spare them a criminal record. However, failure to complete the program or subsequent involvement with illicit drugs would result in criminal prosecution.

Jason Harwin, the former NPCC lead on drugs and a former deputy chief constable, is working with the College of Policing on this partial decriminalization strategy. Harwin argues that individuals should not be criminalized for drug possession but should be given the chance to change their behavior through diversion to appropriate services.

Fourteen police forces out of the U.K.’s 43 have already implemented policies similar to the NPCC’s drug decriminalization proposal. However, the plan conflicts with the Conservative Party government’s intention to strengthen penalties for recreational drugs, including cannabis.

Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers is an accomplished writer and cannabis enthusiast. With a Ph.D. in Botany and years of experience as a researcher, she brings a scientific perspective to her captivating articles on cannabis news, recipes, and the fascinating world of psychedelics.

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