The Commercialisation of Cannabis in England’s Disadvantaged Cities

Commercialisation of Cannabis

Researcher: James Treadwell


Senior Criminology lecturer James Treadwell worked with Craig Acrum (Teesside University) to research the growing commercial cultivation of cannabis. They carried out interviews with criminal groups and disadvantaged locals to discover how this trend reflects technological and cultural changes in society. Since the 1980’s the growing of cannabis in the UK has become increasingly popular and the research sought to understand who is behind it, their motives and how they do it.


This research project aimed to:

  • Analyse the participation of organised crime groups in the cannabis market
  • Investigate into the different types of people who sell and grow cannabis
  • Discover trends in the motives behind why people get involved
  • Find out more about cannabis entrepreneurs  


The results showed that, although they found a range of people from different ethnicities, the main group in the cannabis business were white males aged 25 – 50 years old. The locations of where they would grow it was very diverse, from attics to large scale lock-ups. James discovered that a lot of people would rent a property to use as a cannabis farm and live with a partner in another property. This meant that they could have more room for plants and still receive benefits as a single person.

 “Participants revealed that with traditional forms of working class work such as manufacturing disappearing, there are very few legitimate jobs that offer a salary such as that for such limited labour in growing and dealing cannabis” - Dr James Treadwell

The researchers found that the most common motive was money, with one participant stating, ‘…weed is the biggest employer round here’. People living in disadvantaged cities and from poor backgrounds saw selling cannabis as the most lucrative opportunity to quickly earn a lot of money. The academics concluded: 

"Our research found that the world of cannabis cultivation is one of men on the edge of social exclusion, clawing themselves into a better position by exploiting the limited illicit opportunities around them" 

To read more on this research project, you can read the full report, Beyond ghosts, gangs and good sorts.

Image credit: Wendy McCormick