Reefer Madness in UK reporting (updated)

Drugs factory raided

A total of 90 cannabis plants, with a street value of between £20,000 and £30,000, were seized from the property […]

Ian Hodge, who lives in Berryfield Road, Cottingham, saw officers loading the cannabis plants into a police van.

He said: “Everyone in the village is talking about the raid and some people are really stunned. I’m not surprised a cannabis factory has been found in Cottingham because, with all the activity to shut down drugs houses in Corby, the problem is likely to move outside the town.

I really find the word “factory” to be bizarre when referring to growing some marijuana plants. It’s a garden. Even if it’s indoors, it’s not a “factory.” Do UK residents actually say “cannabis factory”? Or is the reporter putting words in his mouth.

Here’s the real fun stuff:

Police are warning that when cannabis plants reach the final stages of maturity the odour they release has carcinogenic properties.

Officers who deal with the plants use ventilation masks and protective suits and people who have plants in their home, especially anyone with young children, may be exposing their family to a health risk.

Wow! Just completely making things up now.

It’s so outrageous that the police inspector interviewed in the article actually wrote in the comments section that he said nothing of the sort and he had no idea where the reporter got the idea.

Interestingly, no reporter’s name is given with the article.

[H/T Transform]


Thanks to Daksya in comments…

Check out this delightful follow-up by Ben Goldacre — really nice job by Ben at digging into this story and finding the faults from both the police and the press. Be sure to read the comments there — that’s where the real action takes place.

And thanks to Jake for letting me know that the word “factory” is commonly used in the UK to refer to grow-ops.

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40 Responses to Reefer Madness in UK reporting (updated)

  1. allan says:

    Almost on a daily basis I just can’t help but be amazed

    Police are warning that when cannabis plants reach the final stages of maturity the odour they release has carcinogenic properties.

    Right up there with “hundreds of thousands of homes” moldy from indoor grows and Joe Biden’s “thousands of hours” spent discussing legalization.

    Is it just me or are the threads on the Emperor’s new clothes wearing kind of thin?

    • kaptinemo says:

      Not just thin, but threadbare. It’s unraveling. Loose threads separating, leading to more strings to pull. And with the Drugwar being what it is, as the old saying goes, “Pull a string; get a snake.”

  2. kaptinemo says:

    Apparently the situation is spiraling out of hand, with questions as to the veracity of the sources. I’d hate to be the editor there, as this looks like it is turning out to be a British version of the old Washington Post/Janet Cooke fiasco.

    Cooke wrote a BS story about a pre-teen heroin addict in Washington DC that won a Pulitzer, which later had to be returned when it was found out that she had lied and made stuff up. It was especially noticeable as the then-Mayor of DC had ordered the city police to turn the city upside-down and shake it to find and save a non-existent child. Very embarrassing.

    Maybe this will finally teach the Brit tabloids that write this kind of bilge about illicit drugs that fact-checking is not an option in journalism, it’s a feature.

  3. darkcycle says:

    MAJOR coffee spit.

  4. Jake says:

    The term “factory” is frequently used here in the UK. It sounds so much colder than ‘lovingly tending plants for profit’. If you can separate the reality enough (i.e. growing plants) and make it sound like its some crazy ‘lab’, or ‘factory’, it is easier to get people on-side…

    The psychosis issue is our main ‘reefer madness’ misinformation source too (even though Alcohol actually has a higher psychosis rate than Cannabis, and our govt know this although I don’t believe it gets anywhere near the same amount/kind of air-time across the pond?

  5. daksya says:

    Ben Goldacre followed up on the “carcinogenic properties” bit.

    • allan says:

      thanks for that daksya, what a funday Ben must’ve had. Making folks all squirmy and uncomfortable like…

      Now if someone in CO would put in a call to Mrs Roach at the CO DEA ofc about those hundreds of thousands of moldy homes… ooh, and a call to Joe Biden to find out where we can find the records for the thousands of hours of hearings and discussions he’s had on legalization.

  6. Servetus says:

    Cancer from cannabis aromas, indeed. What’s next? Diabetes from dahlias? Rheumatism from roses? Tumors from tulips?

    It’s bad enough the journalists at the Harborough Mail would embarrass the police and themselves by publishing idiotic statements about cancer and marijuana. Any reader with any sense will view the Cottingham drug cops as hypochondriacs. Readers are likely to regard the respective journalists as promoters of mass hysteria as well, if they don’t already.

  7. Francis says:

    Damn, the drug warriors sure are making it difficult for us to parody them. I mean, my primary reaction to this story was frustration. I got nothing. Well-played, Harborough Mail.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      We buried the arts of sarcasm and parody at least a dozen months ago right here on Pete’s Couch, and the death certificate reads intentional comedicide at the hands of the Know Nothing prohibitionists. Unfortunately we weren’t able to pursue charges against them because a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was a foregone conclusion.

      It must have been before you joined us Frances because that was a very sad day. We knew that parody and sarcasm were taking a dirt nap when a prohibitionist posted, in all seriousness no less, that we have to keep cannabis illegal in order to keep the criminals occupied. Otherwise they might get into real mischief.

      • darkcycle says:

        Yes, with great sadness, we suddenly came to the realization that no matter how absurdly far we went in an effort to parody these people, some prohibitionist, somewhere, had already GONE THERE. And in all seriousness. When we finally recognized that these people were not only not getting the sarcasm but MINING IT FOR IDEAS, it took all the fun right out of it. (besides, Sarcasm will often slip by yours truly, especially in the face of the stuff my dad has been known to say…he says it, and he means it)

      • Chris says:

        I am constantly wondering how significant the progress I’m seeing really is. I came to this site in early 2009 when I was still researching drugs and drug policy and before I had even tried cannabis and I’m more interested in the watching this social problem unravel itself than anything else. I read about drug policy daily, yet there is no one I can share my thoughts with unless I want to be stigmatized, even by my own family. We have sitting presidents suggesting drug legalization and medical marijuana is flourishing in my state. I watched as pot jokes in new articles became passé and were then replaced by much more serious arguments and comments almost entirely in favor of change. The only problem is that I seemed to have gotten interested right before the turning point so I can’t really tell how big this is. How much longer is it going to take?

        I’m really, really tired of the threat of stigmatization, loss of employment or incarceration hanging over me every day. I’m sick of people I know seeing me use a drug safer than any other I’ve encountered and act like I’m crazy for exposing myself or doing something dangerous. I can’t even imagine how those who have actually had the full force of society’s systematic discrimination directed towards them feel.

        So please, tell me: are we actually getting somewhere or am I just imagining it?

        • allan says:

          my thoughts…

          lucky you

          damn, we have been at this a long time (mid 1970s for my start)

          yes, we are getting somewhere, but only because we use our drug policy MAP

          no, we don’t know where where is

          yes, you are imagining it

          and no you’re not imagining it

          I hope that clears things up.

        • Chris says:

          My friend can buy cannabis tincture made with everclear from a storefront, yet cannot legally buy beer. I watched the first episode of “American Weed” the other week and someone in Colorado was arrested not for having an blatant outdoor grow (which he chopped down immediately) but for having a secret indoor grow. We have a president who has used cocaine and cannabis and was elected by people like me, yet he has done the opposite of what I want and have repeatedly told him that I want. Leeches, maggots, cocaine, morphine and methamphetamine all have recognized medicinal uses throughout the United States, yet less than ten people can use cannabis legally at the federal for that purpose and all studies they fund must try (and fail) to find any real negatives to its use. Tobacco, alcoholism, tylenol and even water kill more than cannabis, yet my mother is too scared to understand that I’m the one who drives us home safely when everyone else is drunk and I get the dirty looks when I hit my vaporizer next to someone smoking a cigarette.

          All the while the federal government reiterates the same message like a broken record. The situation is obviously corrupt to anyone with either a brain or a spine under such little examination that it defies belief how anyone could bring themselves to support it. The situation is clear as mud and nothing is what it seems. This is pure insanity, and all I can do is assure you that this mess will not endure another generation. I’m sorry that we have to wait for most of yours to die off for that to happen.

        • darkcycle says:

          I’m not planning on dieing, Chris. I’m never leaving. I’m gonna be like Dick Cheney, a half human, half zombie-machine medical freak, and I’m going to roll my motorized wheelchair back and forth over your grave (in lieu of dancing, I’ll be way too decrepit by then).

  8. primus says:

    And they wonder why their readership is falling.

  9. bob says:

    The worst thing about it is that some “people” somewhere will believe it and spread the BS around like the “cancer” marijuana plants release. Instant cancer.

  10. Dante says:

    In a sick way, the very smell of cannabis is deadly.

    To explain:

    Cop smells cannabis coming out of your house.

    Cop breaks in and naturally starts shooting everywhere.

    Dogs, children, senior citizens lay dead in the house NEXT DOOR to the actual grow house.

    Viola! The smell turned out to be deadly.

  11. phil s says:

    Ben’s done brilliant detective work on this story. This is the normal level of scientific knowledge in UK newspapers. I recall another coffee-on-keyboard story I reported to Ben when The Sun, a “newspaper” that gauges the size of its’ readership by the size of the naked breasts on page 3, said that the Taliban were using discarded cannabis leaves to manufacture heroin.

  12. kaptinemo says:

    What’s going on with this article is why I keep saying and will keep saying that this issue can only be decided in a lawsuit that publicly, formally paints the prohibs as the inveterate liars they are.

    So long as the prohibs can keep spouting lies without a legal punishment involved for doing so, they will continue their mendacity until Hell freezes over.

    We need a 21st century version of the Scopes Trial where the prohibs are hauled into court and made to testify UNDER OATH. If it could be done for the concept of evolution, it can be done for the reality of drug prohibition…and needs to be, with all due haste.

    • Peter says:

      i suppose to truly parallel the scopes trial someone like biden or kerlikowske would have to try to prosecute a reformer for asserting that for instance, cannabis never killed anyone, or prohition makes us all less safe. that wont happen because the last thing they want is to have to testify under oath.

      • Rick Steeb says:

        What we need is more of an end to the “war” and a Nuremberg trial for the perpetrators who have enforced this crime against humanity. Reparations will be required to achieve “justice”.

  13. Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers says:

    Prohibitionist probably think the ol’ classic Reefer Madness is some kind of documentary.

  14. Fatwa Arbuckle says:

    I’ve seen the term “factory” applied to indoor grow operations a few times in U.S. papers; ditto “manufacturing” marijuana. I’d presume – but don’t know – that overzealous drug warriors in some jurisdictions have enacted legislation with that sort of wording.

    Because it 1) sounds much scarier than the reality, and/or 2) encourages the citizenry to conflate pot production with coca-based or poppy-based drugs, meth, and other substances which require some sort of sinister “lab” for “processing”.

    [Insert super-villain laugh here]

    • kaptinemo says:

      Actually, you’re quite right. The Feds provide their State and local counterparts with all the propaganda they need, dreamed up by wits such as Kevin Sabet at ONDCP, derived with US taxpayer funds, which we cannabists paid for courtesy of those of us who are still lucky enough to have jobs…for now. Which is why you generally see a high degree of uniformity in phrases used in police statements.

      Take the police practice to use the word ‘sophisticated’ when describing grow-ops. The set-up could be as primitive as a wick system, but to these neo-Luddites, anything more technologically advanced than a spoon seems ‘sophisticated’. But again and again you see that word. And for the same reasons you mentioned: the negative (and largely emotional) connotations are used to negatively affect perceptions of the target audience. It’s Advertisement Course 101 material. Very basic…and very dishonest.

      • Francis says:

        In fairness, photosynthesis IS a pretty “sophisticated” process.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Here’s a grow bust which wasn’t described as either sophisticated or elaborate. Nor did they call it a lab or a factory. I don’t think it’s because the West Virginia State Police missed the memo, but is because the grower is a brain dead idiot. Remember boys and girls, don’t call any law enforcement office repeatedly from your grow location. If you feel you must harass the police telephonically, use a pay phone or a throw away cellular.

  15. Anon says:

    Yes, ‘factory’ like ‘grow-op’ is used to demonize gardening.

    Since the term grow-op is so widespread in Canada, I’ve taken to referring to all indoor greenhouses as grow-ops.

    “Hey Honey, want to go to the grow-op? The lillies are in bloom, and winter is so dreary.”

    “My grow-op tomatoes are juicy!”

  16. In Denmark we’ve actually had to suffer the insane media expression “hash laboratories” in connection with indoor grown cannabis crops.

  17. darkcycle says:

    Well, I have to go water my factory.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Well your factory really can’t be sophisticated if it doesn’t water itself. Don’t you have an elaborate water factory at your home?

  18. Josh says:

    Many cities in Denver consider medical marijuana grow operations factories under the applicable building code.

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