EU Drug Market: Cannabis — Global context

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This resource is part of EU Drug Market: Cannabis — In-depth analysis by the EMCDDA and Europol.

Last update: November 2023

Globally, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug, and its production – both indoors and outdoors – is reported in almost all countries in the world. The extensive and diverse nature of cannabis production makes it impossible to produce reliable estimates of global production. However, the UNODC estimates that in the 2010-2020 period cannabis was produced in 190 countries and territories, and that production, particularly indoor cultivation, increased at the global level (UNODC, 2022).

In 2021, some 2 014 tonnes of cannabis resin were seized worldwide, about 8 % less than in 2020. After peaking at 6 800 tonnes in 2004, worldwide herbal cannabis seizures declined to 5 226 tonnes in 2021, an 11 % increase compared to 2020 (UNODC, 2022, 2023).

A trend toward an increase in the potency of cannabis products has been observed in two of the world’s largest consumer markets: the United States, where it quadrupled between 1995 and 2019, and in Europe, where it doubled between 2002 and 2019 (UNODC, 2022) (see Section Cannabis potency: resin increases at much faster pace than herb).

The context in which policy and operational responses to cannabis are carried out has become more complex. For example, policy changes with regard to cannabis in various jurisdictions globally, including in the EU (see Box Cannabis policy developments at global and European levels) appear to have influenced developments across both regulated and illegal markets. This includes, among other effects, a diversification of cannabis retail products across markets. Cannabis policy developments have also recently taken place at the international level. In December 2020, for example, the rescheduling of cannabis in the UN drug control conventions was recommended by the World Health Organization (see Box WHO Critical Review and Rescheduling of Cannabis’). Important developments have also taken place recently in the EU (EMCDDA, 2023a). 

Cannabis: taxonomy of products traditional and modern
Diagram showing the main types of consumer products that can be derived from cannabis plants and their approximate levels of delta-9-THC, expressed in percentages.

Source: EMCDDA and Europol, 2019; EMCDDA, 2023b.


Consult the list of references used in this module.