Europe: new record for cannabis consumption, increase in THC percentage and fear of the spread of fake cannabis

cannabis in Europe

Nearly a third of Europeans have tried cannabis, a new record with Spain at the top of the ranking

A new report from the European Drugs Agency (EMCDDA) identifies an increase in the consumption of illegal cannabis over the last decade, as well as a sharp increase in the percentage of THC, mainly in hashish and its extracts. The spread of fake cannabis is causing serious concern.

The European Union Drug Agency has publié last week, in collaboration with Europol, the European police, a new official report on the illegal market cannabis in Europe and its latest developments over the last decade.

According to the data, the rate of consumption among consumers and the quantities of cannabis seized in Europe have reached a record level in recent years. has increased THC At the same time, the average concentration in cannabis in general, but mainly in hashish and cannabis extracts. The report also warns against the spread of the phenomenon of fake cannabis, also known as “spice”.

The report reveals that around 84 million people, or 29,4% of the adult population in Europe, have used cannabis at some point in their lives. Around 22,6 million people, or 8% of the adult population in Europe, used cannabis last year.

According to the report's estimates, in the illegal cannabis market in Europe, at least 1390 tonnes of cannabis are sold each year, worth around €11,4 billion, but the report highlights that this is of a minimal amount. estimate and that the actual figures are probably higher.

The report also reveals that around 77% of illegal cannabis sold on the European market is in the form of flowers, and around 23% in the form of hashish and extracts.

In 2021, an absolute record for cannabis seizures in Europe was broken, with 256 tonnes of cannabis flower and 816 tonnes of hashish seized that year on the continent, in addition to 4,3 million cannabis plants.

The countries where the highest number of cannabis flowers were seized in 2021 were Spain (130 tonnes), Italy (47 tonnes), France (39,5 tonnes) and Turkey (31 tonnes).

The countries where the highest number of hashish was seized in 2021 were Spain (673 tonnes), France (72,4 tonnes), Turkey (33 tonnes), Italy (20 tonnes), Portugal ( 15 tonnes) and Belgium (13 tonnes).

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Quantity of cannabis flowers seized each year in Europe, broken down by country (source: EMCDDA)
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Quantity of hashish seized each year in Europe, broken down by country (source: EMCDDA)

The average concentration of THC in hashish has increased threefold in a decade

One of the most interesting data from the report is the dramatic increase in the average concentration of THC in black market cannabis in Europe over the past decade.

In a decade, the average concentration of THC in black market cannabis flowers in Europe has jumped by 57%, from 6,1% THC in 2011 to 9,5% THC in 2021.

The average concentration of THC in hashish on the black market has increased by approximately 200% over the same period, from 6,7% THC in 2011 to 20% THC in 2021.

The increase in THC concentration in the flower stems from a global trend towards improved genetics, and probably also from the transition from Albanian crops that have long been the main source of cannabis to Europe, to crops from Spain and other countries.

The increase in THC concentration in hashish is likely mainly due to improved hashish production processes in Morocco, which is the main source of hashish, as well as the shift towards more extraction methods. effective.

It is interesting to note that the average price of cannabis in Europe, both for flower and hashish, has remained exactly the same over the last decade despite this sharp increase in its THC concentration. According to the report, the average price of an inflorescence is still around 10 euros per gram and the average price of hashish is still around 7 euros per gram.

The fact that today in Europe hashish is both cheaper than flowering and twice as strong on average, makes it a favorite product of many Europeans, even if it still only represents about a third of the cannabis market on the continent, with two thirds of the cannabis market. consumers still prefer flowering.

Spain has become one of the largest cannabis producers in Europe

Of the 1 tonnes (at least) of cannabis flowers sold each year in Europe and, as mentioned, around 028% of the illegal cannabis market on the continent, the absolute majority comes from European crops.

Balkan countries, including Albania, considered for many years the largest producer of illegal cannabis in Europe, continue to grow much of the cannabis sold on the continent.

However, the report notes that there is a decrease in the amount of cannabis smuggled in from Balkan countries, and at the same time a sharp increase in the amount of illegal cannabis cultivation coming from Spain, which has long served as the main gateway for hashish. from Morocco to Europe, with more than 650 tonnes of hashish seized each year, but also since 2020 the country where the largest quantity of cannabis plants (flowers) is seized in Europe, and also probably the largest cannabis producer illegal.

In total, in 2021, around 4,3 million cannabis plants were seized in Europe, a figure which represents an absolute record. 75% of all cannabis plants seized on the continent that year were seized in Spain. The same year, 130 tonnes of cannabis flowers were also seized in Spain, more than twice as many as the previous year and more than in any other country in Europe.

For example, in April 2022, Spanish authorities seized 415 cannabis plants during a raid on one of the largest cannabis fields ever seized in Europe.

Later that month, another 100 cannabis plants were seized in the cities of Almeria, Cordoba and Barcelona, ​​from cannabis farms that claimed to be legal hemp (hemp) farms, but were actually growing cannabis illegal for smuggling to other European countries.

A few months later, in July 2022, more than 6 tons of illegal cannabis flowers were seized from a Barcelona farm that spanned 350 dunams and also claimed to be a legal hemp farm.

The fake cannabis (“spice”) trend is spreading in Europe

The phenomenon of fake cannabis products containing synthetic cannabinoids (“spice”) and pretending to be real cannabis through fake packaging, continues to gain momentum in Europe, also revealed for the first time.

Even in Europe, these cannabis counterfeits have become commonplace in recent years, where the phenomenon also includes fake vaping pens.

In other words, counterfeiters buy inflorescences of legal hemp (hemp) in Europe cheaply and contain no more than 0,3% THC, spray them with powerful synthetic cannabinoids, and then sell them as so-called real cannabis. The same thing is also done with hemp hash, in order to produce a fake “spice hash”.

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Fake cannabis candies seized in Sweden actually contained synthetic cannabinoids (source: Swedish Customs)

Such labs, which turn hemp into fake "cannabis cool guys," are a relatively new phenomenon that the report says began in 2020 when an oversupply in the hemp market caused its price to drop significantly, making it The concept of spraying hemp inflorescences with synthetic cannabinoids and selling them as cannabis is much more profitable from an economic point of view.

Cannabis products containing such synthetic cannabinoids have been seized in 12 European countries in recent years, notably in the form of candies (“edibles”) sold as containing cannabis, but which actually contained fake cannabis.

Increased use of oil and concentrates

The European Union still does not have precise data on consumption volumes of concentrated cannabis extracts such as wax and oil, but seizures of these products have also increased in recent years.

For example, in 2015, only around 70 kg of cannabis extracts were seized in Europe, compared to around 250 kg in 2021, an increase of 250%.

However, this is still a relatively small amount of extracts seized, so it appears they do not yet constitute a significant share of the European cannabis market.

Also in this category, Spain ranks first in terms of seizures, with 88 kg of cannabis extracts seized in 2021, followed by Belgium with 53 kg and Italy with 50 kg.

A survey written by the magazine Cannabis Israel

Tags : International Legal News
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