Cannabis paraphernalia is on open sale in high street shops across Britain, a shocking Mail on Sunday investigation has found.
Our reporters bought items used to consume the illegal drug such as pipes and bongs, along with grinders that break down herbal cannabis to make it easier to smoke. The accessories were often on display next to crisps and sweets.
Major retailers such as Londis and Esso were among those selling cannabis paraphernalia at some of their outlets.
Anti-drugs campaigners say the findings are evidence of the worrying normalisation of cannabis as a ‘tide that can’t be stopped’, with the police increasingly taking a ‘softly-softly’ approach and growing pressure for the class B drug to be legalised.
From November, a change in the law has meant that specialist doctors can prescribe cannabis-based medicines. The drug remains illegal for recreational use but devices such as grinders and pipes are legal to buy and sell, even if it is obvious they will usually be used to prepare or smoke cannabis.
In Birmingham, several shops within a few minutes’ walk of the famous Bullring shopping centre were well stocked with drug kit. At the Nisa convenience store on Digbeth Street, we asked: ‘Do you sell any grinders?’ Unprompted, the assistant replied ‘For cannabis?’ and sold us a small grinder for £1.99.
At the Best One Convenience Store in the city’s Bath Row, we bought a grinder on open display for £1.99 and another at the same price at an Esso station on the same road.
At a Londis store in Birmingham’s Suffolk Street Queensway, grinders adorned with the sign of a cannabis leaf and the word ‘Amsterdam’ were being sold. Pipes in packaging decorated with cannabis leaves were also on display.
In Stockport, Greater Manchester, a news kiosk yards from a McDonald’s packed with children openly sold bongs – tall pipes that are filled with water to smoke cannabis – on a shelf next to crisps and sweets.
The kit was visible from the street and the shopkeeper said the bongs had sold well in the run-up to Christmas. In London, we found a general store on the concourse of Victoria railway station offering grinders. At Portobello Market in West London, the London Amazing Gifts stall sold us a Haze White Widow lollipop with ‘real cannabis inside’ and a packet of ‘Gorilla Hemp’.
Both items are legal because they contain less than 0.2 per cent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the drug’s main psychoactive compound. Mary Brett, of campaign group Cannabis Skunk Sense, said the open sale of drug accessories pointed to a normalisation of cannabis and warned it was ‘a tide that can’t be stopped’. Critics say the drug – especially stronger strains known as skunk – can increase the risk of psychosis.
Last night an Esso spokesman said that its stations were independent ‘branded wholesalers’ and the company had no control over what was sold apart from fuel. A Londis spokesman said independent retailers traded under the brand, adding: ‘Londis does not supply cannabis-related products but individual retailers can source products from specialist suppliers.All Londis retailers are bound to comply with the law.’
Spar, Nisa and Best One did not respond to requests for comment.