Convenient labour: the prevalence and nature of youth involvement in the cannabis cultivation industry.
ABSTRACT The emergence of cannabis cultivation in industrialised countries may offer adolescents, especially those living in regions suitable for outdoor cultivation, new opportunities to participate in the drug trade. The current study examines the prevalence and the nature of youth involvement in cannabis cultivation in an important agricultural region of Quebec, Canada.
A self-report delinquency survey was administered to 1262 adolescents between 13 and 17 years who were attending one of four secondary schools in that region. The study location was not chosen arbitrarily. The region was known for having a larger than average outdoor cannabis industry, and various media reports suggested that a substantial number of students missed school days during the cannabis harvest season, in October.
A first set of findings show that 12% of respondents reported having participated in the cannabis cultivation industry in the past year. Such a prevalence rate is higher than for any other type of crime found in the survey (except for the general category of mischief)--including assault and theft, and is comparable to the prevalence rates found for drug dealing. Such a high prevalence rate comes in part out of need for labour in this low population density region: 35% of respondents who reported having participated in the industry in the past year, were "labourers", while many others only participated in small sites, destined for personal use. Another set of findings suggest that growers are a very diverse group: although cultivation is the most prevalent money-generating crime for gang members in the region, girls and otherwise conventional adolescents are also involved in high numbers.
These results emphasise the need to design policies that concern not just the prevention of drug use among youth, but also youth involvement in the supply of drugs. In addition, it underlines the difficulty of planning general interventions in what appears to be a very heterogeneous population of growers.