An increase in cannabis production has been linked to a legal loophole allowing seeds to be purchased in hundreds of shops and online.
Despite current drug laws which make it illegal for the plant to be grown, used or sold in Britain, the loophole means customs officials seem powerless to seize ‘skunk’ seeds.
These can be grown into a potent form of cannabis, linked to mental health problems in users.
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday highlighted one brand of seeds which can be purchased in shops or online for around £50.
They are said to be connected to the spread of cannabis farms around the country, fuelling a growing market in home-grown illegal drugs.
A disclaimer on the seed company’s website escapes legal repercussions by claiming that the seeds are intended to be keepsakes.
It reads: “All seeds are sold as souvenirs and grow information is for educational reference only. All products ordered will only be used in a lawful manner.”
Anti-drug campaigners raised fears over the findings of the investigation.
Mary Brett, chairman of Cannabis Skunk Sense, said: “They don’t seem to care that kids’ and families’ lives are completely ruined.”
“This loophole for cannabis seeds needs to be closed now before we go any further, before any more kids’ lives are subjected to the awful damage”, she continued.
Brett argued that cannabis acts as a gateway to other drugs, often with devastating consequences.
She said: “We’ve got members in our charity who’ve had children start on cannabis, go on to a harder drug and they’ve died.”
Mental health problems
The sale of so-called ‘skunk’ seeds is particularly worrying given their potency and evidence of a rise in mental illness, linked to cannabis use.
Official figures from Public Health England show that over 5,000 people under the age of 25 entered treatment for cannabis use over the last year.
Nearly half of those aged 18-24 who entered drug treatment in 2013-2014 cited cannabis as their primary substance of misuse.