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Please note that the information on this page is based on the EMCDDA Annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Most statistical data relate to the year 2008 (or the last year available).

 
 

Annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
Cannabis

Published: 10 November 2010

Supply and availability

Production and trafficking

Cannabis can be cultivated in a wide range of environments and grows wild in many parts of the world. It is estimated that cannabis is cultivated in 172 countries and territories (UNODC, 2009). These facts taken together mean that it is difficult to produce accurate estimates of the worldwide production of cannabis. The UNODC (2009) estimates global production of herbal cannabis in 2008 at between 13 300 tonnes and 66 100 tonnes.

Cannabis cultivation in Europe is widespread and appears to be increasing. In 2008, all 29 European countries reporting information mentioned domestic cannabis cultivation, though the scale and nature of the phenomenon seem to vary considerably. A significant proportion of cannabis used in Europe is, nevertheless, likely to be the result of intra-regional trafficking.

Herbal cannabis in Europe is also imported, mostly from Africa (e.g. Nigeria, Cape Verde, South Africa) and less often from the Americas, especially the Caribbean islands, the Middle-east (Lebanon) and Asia (Thailand). Albania, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia are also mentioned as sources in a recent report (INCB, 2010).

Global production of cannabis resin in 2008 is estimated at between 2 200 tonnes and 9 900 tonnes (UNODC, 2009), with Afghanistan and Morocco reported as main producers. A recent survey suggests that Afghanistan may now be the world’s largest producer of cannabis resin, with production estimated at between 1 500 and 3 500 tonnes a year (UNODC, 2010a). The last estimate available for Morocco suggested a cannabis resin output of about 1 000 tonnes in 2005 (UNODC and Government of Morocco, 2007). Although some of the cannabis resin produced in Afghanistan is sold in Europe, it is likely that Morocco remains Europe’s main supplier of this drug. Cannabis resin from Morocco is typically smuggled into Europe via the Iberian Peninsula and the Netherlands.

Table 2: Production, seizures, price and potency of herbal cannabis and resin
  Cannabis resin Herbal cannabis

(1) Range of the middle half of the reported mean prices.

NB: All data for 2008.

Sources: UNODC (2009, 2010b) for global values, Reitox national focal points for European data.

Global production estimate
(tonnes)
2 200–9 900 13 300–66 100
Global quantities seized
(tonnes)
1 637 6 563
Quantity seized (tonnes)
EU and Norway
(Including Croatia and Turkey)
892
(900)
60
(92)
Number of seizures EU and Norway
(Including Croatia and Turkey)
367 400
(368 700)
273 800
(288 600)
Mean retail price (EUR per gram)
Range
(Interquartile range) (1)
3–10
(6–9)
3–16
(5–9)
Mean potency (THC content %)
Range
(Interquartile range) (1)
3–16
(6–10)
1–10
(5–8)

Seizures

In 2008, an estimated 6 563 tonnes of herbal cannabis and 1 637 tonnes of cannabis resin were seized worldwide (Table 2), an overall increase of about 17 % over the previous year (UNODC, 2010b). North America continued to account for the bulk of herbal cannabis seized (48 %), while quantities of resin seized remained concentrated in western and central Europe (57 %).

In Europe, an estimated 289 000 seizures of herbal cannabis, amounting to 92 tonnes, were made in 2008 (1). The number of seizures has increased by two-and-a-half times between 2003 and 2008. The amount of herbal cannabis seized, except for 2004–05 when it decreased to about 65 tonnes, has remained relatively stable since 2003 at just above 90 tonnes (2). The United Kingdom has been accounting for approximately half of the total number of seizures, amounting to 20 tonnes or more per year in 2005–07. Turkey (31 tonnes) and Germany (9 tonnes) reported record seizures in 2008.

Seizures of cannabis resin in Europe exceed herbal cannabis seizures, both in number and amount seized (3). In 2008, about 369 000 seizures of cannabis resin were made, resulting in the interception of 900 tonnes of the drug, almost ten times the quantity of herbal cannabis seized. Between 2003 and 2008, the number of cannabis resin seizures increased steadily, while the amount seized, after an initial decline, has been on the increase since 2006. In 2008, about half of the total number of cannabis resin seizures and three quarters of the quantity seized continued to be reported by Spain, while record quantities of cannabis resin were seized by France (71 tonnes), Portugal (61 tonnes) and Italy (34 tonnes).

The number of seizures of cannabis plants has increased since 2003, reaching an estimated 19 000 cases in 2008. Countries report the quantity seized either as an estimate of the number of plants seized or by weight. The number of plants seized increased from 1.7 million in 2003 to 2.6 million in 2007, before falling to 1.2 million in 2008 (4). The weight of plants seized has increased by a factor of 4.5 over the period, to 43 tonnes in 2008, of which Spain reported 24 tonnes and Bulgaria 15 tonnes.

Potency and price

The potency of cannabis products is determined by their content of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary active constituent. Cannabis potency varies widely between and within countries, and between different cannabis products. Information on cannabis potency is mostly based on forensic analysis of cannabis seized, selected on a sample basis. The extent to which the samples analysed reflect the overall market is unclear and, for this reason, data on potency should be interpreted with caution.

In 2008, the reported mean THC content of cannabis resin ranged from 3 % to 16 %. The mean potency of herbal cannabis (where possible excluding sinsemilla — the form of herbal cannabis with the highest potency) ranged from 1 % to 10 %. The mean potency of sinsemilla was reported by a few countries only: it was always higher than imported herbal cannabis, and ranged from 12 % in Norway to just over 16 % in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Over the period 2003–08, the mean potency of cannabis resin has been diverging in the 11 countries reporting sufficient data; while the potency of herbal cannabis increased in six reporting countries and decreased in four. Information on the potency of locally produced herbal cannabis over a number of years is available only for the Netherlands, where a decline in the mean potency of ‘nederwiet’ was observed; from a peak of 20 % in 2004 to 16 % in 2007 and 2008 (5).

The mean retail price of cannabis resin, in 2008, ranged from EUR 3 to EUR 10 per gram in the 17 countries providing information, with 12 of them reporting values between EUR 6 and EUR 9. The mean retail price of herbal cannabis ranged between EUR 3 and EUR 16 per gram in the 16 countries supplying information, with ten of them reporting prices of between EUR 5 and EUR 9. For cannabis resin, the mean retail price declined or remained stable in all countries with data covering the period 2003–08 except Belgium and Austria, where it increased. Over the same period, the data available for herbal cannabis point to stable or increasing prices in Europe, with downward trends reported only in Hungary and Turkey.

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Footnotes

(1) The data on European drug seizures mentioned in this chapter can be found in Tables SZR-1 to SZR-6 in the 2010 statistical bulletin.

(2) This analysis is preliminary, as data for the United Kingdom are not yet available for 2008.

(3) Due to differences in shipment size and distances travelled, as well as the need to cross international borders, cannabis resin may be more at risk of being seized than domestically produced herbal cannabis.

(4) The analysis does not include the seizures reported by Turkey of 31 million cannabis plants in 2003 and 20 million plants in 2004, since data on quantities seized are not available for subsequent years.

(5) See Tables PPP-1 and PPP-5 in the 2010 statistical bulletin for potency and price data.

Bibliographic references

INCB (2010), Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2009, United Nations, New York (available online).

UNODC (2009), World drug report 2009, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna.

UNODC (2010a), Afghanistan cannabis survey 2009, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna (available online).

UNODC (2010b), World drug report 2010, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna.

UNODC and Government of Morocco (2007), Morocco cannabis survey 2005, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna.

 

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The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU’s decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Tuesday, 26 October 2010