Community Growth: Cannabis worker land co-ops, a brief introduction.
There is a lot to be optimistic about the recent debate by Parliament on an e-petition relating to making the production, sale and use of cannabis legal. We could focus on the negatives like the misguided and antiquated attitude of the current Tory Justice Minister, the somewhat forgettable Mike Penning MP. We must remember that his position is transient and future generations will be bemused at the absurdity of the current narrative that he conforms to. With a variety of transitions happening across the globe there is little doubt in my mind that the dam of prohibition will eventually burst here in the UK.
One thing that is never really highlighted and something that I feel passionately about is the amazing potential cannabis has to rejuvenate local economies whilst also providing both social and environmental benefits. I recently visited a friend who grows a few acres of cannabis (containing less than 0.2% THC, known colloquially as hemp) legally in Devon. It was harvest time and there was a group of around 10 of us helping to bring in the harvest. Some brought cake, some brought drinks, it was a communal convivial affair, the kind of event that strengthens a community. Unfortunately, the markets for cannabis hemp products are limited in the UK so a lot of this crop’s potential will not be fully realised. If there were more local co-operatives growing cannabis hemp then they could syndicalise and create a viable network of producers creating building materials, fibres, maybe even biodegradable plastics. If we free our imaginations and imagine the impossible cannabis co-ops could even be providing the raw materials for the development of revolutionary renewable energy storage solutions.
Now if we then take this concept a step further and regulate the production of a variety of cannabis strains used for medicine and recreation then local community land-based co-operatives could be producing a much broader range of products incorporating the highly sought after female flowers for both the medicinal and the recreational market. ‘Tinctures’ and ‘edibles’ could be sold at local farmer’s markets and by keeping the means of production in the hands of local communities we would avoid the mass commodification and exploitation of this wonderful plant. I am not saying that there shouldn’t be any biomedical production. For specific acute medical conditions a strain of high potency cannabis may well be required; this could be grown under HID lamps in suitable conditions by a designated NHS department. But for the most part it would be far healthier for people and planet if the majority of UK cannabis crops were grown outdoors, organically by small scale farm co-operatives. We have a tabula rasa, an opportunity, let us not fall into outmoded economic models and allow a few to profit when the change comes. Let us invent our own model so that the economics of cannabis benefits the many and not the few by providing a viable living for local communities from the bottom up.