The average potency of cannabis resin in the EU increased by almost 200 per cent between 2011 and 2021, according to new analysis by EMCDDA and Europol. The average potency of herbal cannabis rose by almost 60 per cent over the same period.
The EU cannabis market is estimated to worth at least EUR 11bn annually, says the report, and remains the biggest drug market in Europe. Cannabis products are becoming increasingly diverse – as well as potent – the document states, with a ‘range of natural semi-synthetic and synthetic cannabinoids available in many different forms’ including edibles, vaping products, oils and ‘concentrates’.
Cannabis represents an ‘attractive market’ for serious and organised crime, the report says. While criminal networks involved in the cannabis market tend to be ‘highly cooperative’ at the wholesale level, sharing resources and building partnerships, the profitability and wide geographic span of the market also make it ‘highly volatile and dynamic’, with frequent violence as a result of disputes over the control of territories, as well as ‘debt recovery and revenge’ and ‘attempts to defraud business partners or remove competitors’.
‘Despite the cooperation that occurs between networks, much of the violence among criminals reported to Europol in past years has been connected to illicit cannabis markets’, the document states, with violence involving street gangs involved in cannabis trafficking a serious problem in parts of France and Sweden. Although most cannabis resin in Europe is still smuggled from Morocco, more cannabis products are being smuggled from North America and there are also ‘signs that resin production within the EU may be on the rise’. Meanwhile, five EU member states – Czechia, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands – have introduced or are planning to introduce approaches for regulating the supply of cannabis for recreational use, the report points out.
‘Cocaine seizures might be grabbing the headlines, but trafficking of cannabis is just as important a threat,’ said Europol executive director Catherine De Bolle. ‘The cannabis trade yields a staggering EUR 11.4bn annually, which is still a minimum estimated value of the market. In addition to the impact on public health, the substantial illegal proceeds criminal networks obtain from trafficking cannabis fuel dire consequences — criminals increasingly veer into extreme violence to further their criminal goals.’
EU drug market: cannabis at https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/eu-drug-markets/cannabis_en