Latvia Country Drug Report 2019

Drug markets

From a market perspective, Latvia is mainly a transit country for illicit drugs, with production being reported only occasionally. Although the number of cannabis cultivation sites reported by the police increased considerably during the past decade, the number of plants confiscated has reduced significantly. Synthetic drug production occurs only rarely, but, in 2017, sites for the production of methadone and amphetamine were detected.

Data from law enforcement agencies identify a number of illicit drug trafficking routes. In general, illicit drugs are smuggled over the Latvian border via the road network and by rail, but also by air and through sea ports. Furthermore, there is evidence that drugs are increasingly sent by mail and through the delivery of fast parcels. Synthetic stimulant drugs (amphetamine, methamphetamine and MDMA/ecstasy) are imported from Belgium, Germany, Lithuania and the Netherlands, and, destined for the local market and for transit to neighbouring Nordic countries. Herbal cannabis is imported from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany, while cannabis resin originating from Morocco arrives in Latvia via other European Union Member States, usually in transit to Russia. Cocaine from South America is imported via other European countries by land, air or postal services. Heroin enters Latvia mainly by land from Russia and Belarus. New psychoactive substances (NPS) found in Latvia are mainly produced in Asia.

In 2017, the largest number of seizures involved herbal cannabis, followed by amphetamines, MDMA and heroin. The available data indicate that heroin on the Latvian market has been increasingly replaced by highly potent synthetic opioids, such as carfentanil (which was first mixed with heroin, but is now increasingly found alone), opioid medicines such as tramadol, as well as opioid substitution treatment medicines.

The number of seizures of NPS has been declining in recent years, which may be attributed to new legislative control mechanisms adopted in 2014. Although synthetic cannabinoids continue to dominate NPS seizures, synthetic opioids, mostly carfentanil, were detected in about one third of all NPS seizures.

Latvian law enforcement prioritises herbal cannabis, new synthetic opioids and the smuggling of gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), while also addressing the trafficking and availability of ‘established’ illicit drugs.

Data on the retail price and purity of the main illicit substances seized are shown in the ‘Key statistics’ section.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.