'Dramatic shift' to herbal cannabis
on 02/07/2012 00:00:00
The 274-page research, conducted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, said the sharp rise in herbal cannabis cultivation across Europe was "increasingly associated with collateral damage such as violence and criminality".
The report, entitled 'Cannabis production and markets in Europe', finds there had been a "dramatic shift" away from cannabis resin to herbal cannabis.
It said in two-thirds of the 30 European countries surveyed, herbal cannabis dominated the cannabis market.
In Ireland, where resin has traditionally been the dominant form, herbal cannabis accounted for nearly half of the cannabis market in 2009, compared to around 10% a decade earlier.
"Ireland seems to have experienced a substantial increase in the use of cannabis herb," states the report, which used official figures up to 2009. It said this trend appears to be "accelerating" in the last two years.
Last May, the Irish Examiner reported that more cannabis herb and cannabis plants had been seized this year to date than during the whole of 2011, which itself was a bumper year.
Figures published by the Garda National Drug Unit showed that more than €32m worth of these products had been seized up to May. In comparison, €10m worth of cannabis resin had been seized up to then.
Garda investigations have uncovered massive cannabis cultivation and supply operations involving both domestic criminal gangs and Asian gangs.
The report said much of the rise across Europe was driven by domestic cultivation of herbal cannabis inside the countries and found that 11 states including Ireland reported use of soil-based growing techniques of hydroponics in the cultivation.
It said Ireland was one of six countries that reported the presence of "organised and complex distribution networks" in the cannabis market. The size of the average seizure of cannabis resin in Ireland indicated it was an "entry point" for other countries in Europe.
"Average seizure sizes greater than 1kg suggest that Portugal and Ireland are also entry points for Moroccan resin into Europe," the study states. "In these two countries, resin imports appear to supply both the national and other markets, with the two territories being used as transit areas.
"It is likely that a substantial share of the resin entering Ireland eventually ends up on the United Kingdom market, which, although smaller than the market for herb, is still rather large, estimated to be about six times the size of the Irish market for resin."