The price of Dutch marijuana increased 20 percent last year because the supply is being curbed by a rise in police raids on hemp plantations.
The effectiveness of one gram of Dutch-grown marijuana also has decreased by 1.5 percent, according to an e-mailed statement from the Trimbos Institute, a Dutch group that studies drug addiction and treatments. The level of THC, the compound that gives cannabis its potency, fell to 16 percent from 17.5 percent last year.
It is the first time that the price of Dutch marijuana has risen since the institute started keeping a record of hemp prices in 1999. One gram of marijuana, grown in the Netherlands, costs 7.30 euros ($10.30) currently.
A decrease in supply of Dutch hemp and higher prices could be causing some marijuana producers to mix the cannabis with compounds such as sand and glass pearls, the statement said. The Institute didn’t find evidence that hemp sold in Dutch coffee shops has been mixed with other compounds.
Imported cannabis was 5.4 percent weaker than a year ago, according to the statement. The price of imported marijuana also increased this year, by about 40 cents per gram.
Earlier this year, police in Rotterdam said they’d shut down 600 indoor marijuana farms since 2005. There are about 6,000 active producers in the city.
Dutch officials have stepped up raids on an estimated 40,000 indoor hemp plantations, which cause two fires a month in Rotterdam by tapping into power lines for lights that feed their crops. The crackdown is making it harder to supply marijuana shops with the Super Skunk and Purple Haze their customers crave in a country that decriminalized use of the drug in 1976.
By Tom Pfeiffer
RABAT, March 27 (Reuters) – Morocco appears to be losing its position as the world’s top cannabis grower to Afghanistan after a drive to eradicate the crop in the African country’s impoverished north, the head of the U.N. anti-drugs agency said.
Morocco’s multi-billion dollar cannabis harvest almost halved from 2003 to 2006 after officials ordered the destruction of crops, farmers were encouraged to seek other sources of income and drought depleted yields.
Some 70,000 hectares of the dark green, fern-like plant were grown in Morocco in 2006, said Antonia Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
"I think we are around 60,000 hectares at the moment, although the survey is still ongoing," he told Reuters by telephone.
In lawless Afghanistan, however, the opposite is happening.
"What we’ve seen for sure is a gigantic increase in cultivation of cannabis in Afghanistan," said Costa. "It may very well have overtaken Morocco."
A scientific study of drug cultivation in Afghanistan last year showed a cannabis crop of about 70,000 hectares, he said.
Cannabis cultivation also seemed to be on the rise in the Middle East in Sinai, eastern Lebanon and even parts of Iraq, he said.
Rabat was accused for years of failing to develop Morocco’s rugged and isolated Rif mountains where families grow cannabis to stave off grinding poverty.
To draw investment and help lift the region out of poverty, it opened the kingdom’s largest container terminal near Tangier last year and is setting up a chain of free trade zones nearby.
Four years ago Morocco’s hashish trade netted an estimated $12 billion for dealers and for drug barons who benefited from the complicity of local officials.
Around a quarter of that sum filtered back into the Moroccan economy.
Spurred on by suspicions that sales from hashish helped pay for terrorist activities, Moroccan authorities have tightened drug controls at ports and installed scanners able to detect cannabis within large trucks and containers.
While Morocco remains the world’s biggest exporter of processed cannabis, a record 35 tonnes of hashish were seized in Tangier port last year, up 25 percent from 2006.
Costa said that had prompted a shift in tactics by trafficking networks.
"We now see more cannabis being shifted east across north Africa and reaching the shores of Europe in Italy and Greece," he said. "There are reports that some of the money is funding terrorist cells, including groups in Algeria."
Cannabis is the most widely consumed illicit drug globally. Cannabis herb production slipped 6 percent to 42,000 tonnes in 2005, according to U.N. estimates.