U.K. Man Charged with Selling Legal Cannabis Seeds

The UK’s cannabis laws have again been thrown into disrepute after the owner of a headshop was arrested and charged for selling cannabis seeds, despite it being legal to do so.

Michael David Lyon, 37, who ran the shop in Saltney, Chester, told Flintshire Magistrate’s Court that the seeds were being sold as collector’s items, and that if and when customers indicated that they planned to grow them, he would refuse to serve them and throw them out of the shop. To this end he had placed a sign in the shop warning customers that none of his products (which also included bongs, lighters, grinders, and rolling papers) were to be used for breaking the law.

However, prosecutor Alun Humphreys told the court that such a notice was “not worth the paper it was written on,” and that Lyon ran the shop on a “don’t ask me, I know what you are going to use it for, but don’t tell me” basis.

He was fined £600 with £460 costs for the ‘crime’ of supplying articles to administer drugs unlawfully.

This case has again pushed the issue of seed sales into the spotlight. The law is pretty clear on what is and isn’t illegal – you can sell seeds, but cannot offer any advice on growing them, and must refuse to sell them if you suspect a customer is planning on breaking the law. It is also illegal to sell seeds and cultivation equipment (lights, grow tents, fertilisers etc) from the same premises.

Despite this, certain sections of the police and government have long argued that their sale should be outlawed. Back in 2008, the then Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wellington, Tom Brake, introduced the ‘Cannabis Seeds (Prohibition) Bill,’ which as the title suggests sought to introduce an outright ban on all cannabis seeds.

This Bill thankfully never made it past the Commons, and was roundly criticised by many including veteran Labour MP for Newport West Paul Flynn, who pointed out that “Thousands of people in this country choose to grow their own cannabis…If it [The Cannabis Seeds (Prohibition) Bill] were to become law, those people would have to move to the criminal market. At the moment, they are doing something perfectly legal.”

This view was reiterated in 2013 by Jason Reed, Executive Director of LEAP UK, in the Huffington Post. Responding to the news that Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale had suddenly become aware that cannabis seeds were legal, and had vowed to ban them, Reed eloquently explained why this was a terrible idea.

“Trying to ‘control’ anything that is subject to nature is nigh on impossible.” He wrote, “We have to remind ourselves that we’re not dealing with a higher risk manufacturing process like other drugs. The cultivation of cannabis is comparatively easy, even without seeds. What the banning of seeds would do is lead the criminal gangs that currently control the commercial, highly profitable, street market, to have even more power — and exponentially greater profit margins. We must do all within our power to hinder their financial gain.”

Gale’s bluster thankfully didn’t amount to anything either, but this latest case of an individual being charged with a crime despite no crime having taken place is concerning. It could be seen as a test case, and lead to further convictions. It could even be used as a way for the government to force the closure of shape they deem undesirable, without having to enforce the totally barking and currently postponed Psychoactive Substances Act. Whatever the case, this is well worth keeping an eye on.

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