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Published: 10 November 2010

Revenues and profits from illicit cannabis cultivation

Estimates produced by police forces suggest that the cannabis plants seized in 2008 could have generated sales of EUR 70 million in Belgium and EUR 76 million in the United Kingdom (NPIA, 2009), and wholesale profits of between EUR 36 million and EUR 61 million in Germany. The total revenue generated by illicit commercial cannabis production is, however, difficult to assess as these figures refer only to intercepted cannabis plants. Estimating the profits also needs to take into account several other variables.

The revenue provided by illicit commercial cannabis production is dependent on several factors including: the size of the plantation, the number of plants, the average yield per plant and the number of harvests per year. A high density of plants and frequent harvests generally decrease the yield obtained from each plant. The revenue generated also depends on whether the harvest is sold on retail or wholesale markets, since prices are usually higher on retail markets.

The costs associated with illicit commercial cannabis production in indoor plantations include: the premises, seed or plant stock, soil or mineral wool, nutrients, lights and pumps, tools and ventilation, and labour. Electricity, when it is not obtained illegally, is also a major element of production costs.

To calculate the revenue and profit from illicit cannabis plantations, Dutch law enforcement agencies have developed technical standards, which they update regularly. New methodologies are also under development in Belgium and the United Kingdom.

NPIA (National Policing Improvement Agency) (2009), Digest, March (available online).

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Page last updated: Monday, 18 October 2010