Ireland is a producing country for cannabis and, possibly to a much lesser extent, synthetic drugs. The number of cannabis cultivation sites reached a peak in 2011 and was stable until 2017: based on police data and information, the domestic production of cannabis has recently been increasing again. Cannabis cultivation sites are generally operated by foreign organised crime groups, which also employ foreign nationals to work as gardeners.
The synthetic drug market is continually changing: pre-precursors (alpha- phenylacetoacetonitrile (APAAN), benzyl cyanide) and precursors (piperonyl methyl ketone (PMK) and benzyl methyl ketone BMK) used in the manufacture of MDMA/ecstasy and amphetamine were detected in Ireland in 2013. Between 2014 and 2016, four separate ‘box labs’ were detected in Cork and Dublin, suggesting that methamphetamine was being produced, albeit on a small scale.
Illicit drugs are trafficked into Ireland mainly by sea — the main mode of transport is by freight via Rosslare Europort and Dublin Port or ferries — or by air via Dublin Airport and Shannon Airport. The bulk of the products that arrive by plane are concealed in luggage. Another method that is used is postal packages.
Most of the cannabis resin seized in Ireland originates from Morocco; the bulk of synthetic drugs in Ireland are produced in and imported from the Netherlands; and heroin is smuggled to Ireland from EU hubs receiving the drugs via the Balkan route. India and Pakistan are a source of counterfeit medicines, and China is believed to be the main source of new psychoactive substances (NPS).
Overall, between 2007 and 2015, a decline in the number of illicit drug seizures was reported in Ireland. This reflects a decrease in the number of seizures of cannabis products, which are the drugs most commonly seized. A decrease is also evident in the quantity of stimulants, NPS and medicinal products; however, between 2016 and 2017, the number of cocaine seizures increased.
Supply reduction in Ireland prioritises drug interdiction, tackling organised crime, enhancing community policing and reducing reoffending. Uniquely in the EU, the national drug strategy recognises the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level. The achievement of these goals will involve the participation of a wide network of law enforcement agencies representing An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, the Naval Service, the Criminal Assets Bureau and relevant community-level partners.
Data on the retail price and purity of the main illicit substances seized are shown in the ‘Key statistics’ section.