Insights into Europe's Cannabis Landscape: Consumption, Legal Challenges, and Environmental Impacts
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), together with Europol, released a study titled 'EU Drug Market: Cannabis.' This study explores how often cannabis is used, where it's grown, the number of times it's been seized by the police, how Europe's cannabis scene stacks up against other places, and more important insights.
EMCDDA, set up in 1993, is part of the EU and based in Lisbon, Portugal. Europol, also known as the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, is the EU's policing agency.
The study shares that around 84 million people aged 15-64 in Europe have tried cannabis at some point, and 22.6 million used it in the past year. To give you an idea, there are about 742 million people living in Europe according to World meter.
The study points out that illegal sales of cannabis are the biggest drug market in the EU. Most of the cannabis found in the EU is grown right here. The study estimates the yearly worth of this market in the EU at about 11.4 billion euros. Cannabis in plant form makes up most of this market, valued at roughly 8.8 billion euros, while cannabis resin makes up about 23% of the market, valued at around 2.6 billion euros.
While Europe's legal cannabis market is still finding its feet, it's mostly made up of medical cannabis and products with low levels of THC, often called 'cannabis light' here.
Up to now, only Malta and Luxembourg in Europe have approved laws for adult use of cannabis that don't allow selling it like in Canada and Uruguay. Malta's law, passed in late 2021, allows people to grow, have, and use cannabis, and also lets noncommercial cannabis clubs operate. Luxembourg's law also allows growing, having, and using cannabis, but you might still get fined for having it in some situations.
Spain is a major place in the EU for illegally growing cannabis, with 75% of all cannabis plants seized in 2021 coming from there. Spain is also a main entry point for cannabis resin from Morocco, with over 650 tonnes seized in 2021.
In 2021, the amount of cannabis and resin seized in the EU hit a ten-year high, with 256 tonnes of cannabis and 816 tonnes of resin confiscated. Over 4.3 million cannabis plants were also seized.
The study also talks about the environmental toll of growing cannabis indoors in Europe, mainly because growers are trying to stay hidden from the law. Indoor growing's carbon footprint is estimated to be much higher than outdoor growing.
The study notes that a lot of recent criminal violence is linked to the cannabis trade, with the lucrative market leading to fights between groups.
The report suggests that different approaches to updating cannabis laws in Europe might cause bigger problems for the police. However, a 2021 study using data from legal markets in the U.S. found that having different laws might have a stronger effect on reducing crime than thought. This study found that legalizing medical marijuana can lead to fewer violent crimes, especially in states next to Mexico and in big cities. It also found that legalizing medical marijuana can reduce property crimes, with even bigger drops in states next to Mexico.
Lastly, data from Canada's legal market shows that since 2019, more consumers are buying from legal shops instead of illegal sources.
Source: International CBC