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Please note that the information on this page is based on the EMCDDA Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Most statistical data relate to the year 2009 (or the last year available).

 
 

Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
Cannabis

Published: 15 November 2011

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 has been estimated that cannabis is cultivated in 172 countries and territories (UNODC, 2009). The difficulties in arriving at accurate figures for global cannabis production are acknowledged in the UNODC's most recent estimates, which place global production for 2008 at between 13 300 and 66 100 tonnes of herbal cannabis and between 2 200 and 9 900 tonnes of cannabis resin.

Cannabis cultivation in Europe is widespread and appears to be increasing. All 29 European countries reporting information to the EMCDDA 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. The International Narcotics Control Board (2011) mentioned Albania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine as sources of the cannabis used in central and eastern Europe.

Herbal cannabis in Europe is also imported, mostly from Africa (e.g. Ghana, South Africa, Egypt), and less often from the Americas (especially the Caribbean islands), the Middle East (Lebanon) and Asia (Thailand).

A recent survey suggests that Afghanistan has displaced Morocco as the largest producer of cannabis resin. Production of cannabis resin in Afghanistan is estimated at between 1 200 and 3 700 tonnes a year (UNODC, 2011). 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 primarily through the Iberian Peninsula, with the Netherlands and Belgium having a role as a secondary distribution and storage centre (Europol, 2011).

Table 3: Production, seizures, price and potency of herbal cannabis and resin
  Cannabis resin Herbal cannabis Cannabis plants (1)

(1) Countries report the quantity seized either as a number of plants seized or by weight; the totals for both quantities are given here.

(2) The total amount of cannabis plants seized in 2009 is likely to be underestimated, largely due to the lack of recent data for the Netherlands, a country reporting relatively large seizures up to 2007. In the absence of 2008 and 2009 data, values for the Netherlands cannot be included in European estimates for 2009.

(3) Range of the middle half of the reported data.

NB:
All data are for 2009; n.a., not applicable.

Sources:
UNODC (2010), World drug report 2010, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna. for global values.
Reitox national focal points for European data.

Global quantity seized 1 261 tonnes 6 022 tonnes n.a.
Quantity seized
EU and Norway
(Including Croatia and Turkey)

584 tonnes
(594 tonnes)

57 tonnes
(99 tonnes)

1.4 million plants and 42 tonnes
(1.4 million plants and 42 tonnes) (2)
Number of seizures
EU and Norway
(Including Croatia and Turkey)

400 000
(405 000)

324 000
(354 000)

25 000
(25 100)
Mean retail price (EUR per gram)
Range
(Interquartile range) (3)

3–19
(6.8–10.2)

2–70
(6.3–10.9)

n.a.
n.a.
Mean potency (THC content, %)
Range
(Interquartile range) (3)

3–17
(4.3–11.5)

1–15
(4.4–8.9)

n.a.
n.a.

Seizures

In 2009, an estimated 6 022 tonnes of herbal cannabis and 1 261 tonnes of cannabis resin were seized worldwide (Table 3: Production, seizures, price and potency of herbal cannabis and resin), an overall decrease of about 11 % over the previous year. North America continued to account for the bulk of herbal cannabis seized (70 %), while quantities of resin seized remained concentrated in western and central Europe (48 %) (UNODC, 2011).

In Europe, an estimated 354 000 seizures of herbal cannabis were made in 2009, amounting to an estimated 99 tonnes, of which Turkey accounted for over one-third (42 tonnes), a record amount; in addition, record seizures were reported by Greece (7 tonnes) and Portugal (5 tonnes) (1). Between 2004 and 2009, the total number of seizures has doubled and the amount of herbal cannabis seized also increased. Since 2005, the United Kingdom has accounted for about half of the total number of seizures, amounting to a minimum of about 20 tonnes per year.

Seizures of cannabis resin in Europe continued to exceed herbal cannabis seizures, both in number and amount seized, although the difference is decreasing (2). In 2009, about 405 000 seizures of cannabis resin were made, resulting in the interception of an estimated 594 tonnes of the drug, six times the quantity of herbal cannabis seized. Between 2004 and 2009, the number of cannabis resin seizures increased steadily, while the total amount seized has been declining from a peak of 1 080 tonnes in 2004. In 2009, similar to other years, Spain reported half of the total number of cannabis resin seizures and about three-quarters of the quantity seized.

The number of seizures of cannabis plants has increased since 2004, reaching an estimated 25 100 cases in 2009. Countries report the quantity seized either as an estimate of the number of plants seized or by weight. Seizures reported by number of plants increased from 1.7 million in 2004 to about 2.5 million in 2005-07 in Europe (3). Available data may point to a decrease in 2008 at European level, but current trends in reported numbers of cannabis plants seized cannot be plotted due to the lack of recent data from the Netherlands, a country historically reporting large quantities. Since 2004, seizures reported by weight of plants have more than trebled, reaching 42 tonnes in 2009, most of which continued to be accounted for by Spain (29 tonnes) and Bulgaria (10 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, between different cannabis products and between genetic varieties. Information on cannabis potency is mainly based on forensic analysis of selected samples of cannabis seized. 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 2009, the reported mean THC content of cannabis resin ranged from 3 % to 17 %. The mean potency of herbal cannabis (including sinsemilla - the form of herbal cannabis with the highest potency) ranged from 1 % to 15 %. The mean potency of sinsemilla was reported by only three countries: 2 % in Romania, 11 % in Germany, and 15 % in the Netherlands. Over the period 2004-09, the mean potency of cannabis resin has been diverging in the 15 countries reporting sufficient data. The potency of herbal cannabis remained relatively stable or decreased in ten reporting countries, and increased in the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Netherlands and Slovakia. Trend data on the potency of locally produced herbal cannabis are available only for the Netherlands, where a decline in the mean potency of 'nederwiet' was observed: from a peak of 20 % in 2004 to 15 % in 2009 (4).

The mean retail price of cannabis resin, in 2009, ranged from EUR 3 to EUR 19 per gram in the 18 countries providing information, with 12 countries reporting prices between EUR 7 and EUR 10. The mean retail price of herbal cannabis ranged between EUR 2 and EUR 70 per gram in the 20 countries supplying information, with 12 of them reporting prices of between EUR 5 and EUR 10. Over the period 2004-09, the mean retail price of both cannabis resin and herb remained stable or increased in most of the 18 countries providing data, with the exceptions being Latvia, Hungary and Poland, where the price of resin decreased.

Footnotes

(1) The data on European drug seizures mentioned in this chapter can be found in Tables SZR-1 to SZR-6 in the 2011 statistical bulletin.

(2) 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.

(3) The analysis does not include the seizures reported by Turkey of 20.4 million plants in 2004, since data on quantities seized are not available for subsequent years.

(4) See Tables PPP-1 and PPP-5 in the 2011 statistical bulletin for potency and price data. For definitions of cannabis products, see the online glossary.

Bibliographic references

Europol (2011), EU organised crime threat assessment: OCTA 2011, Europol, the Hague.

INCB (2011), Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2010, United Nations, New York.

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

UNODC (2011), World drug report 2011, 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: Friday, 28 October 2011