Southern Spain is seeing a rise in the number of illegal cannabis plantations

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Cannabis plant seizures in Spain have quadrupled within the last five years, sparking fears of a troublesome trend that suggests a consequential rise in ‘associated crime’.

In fact, the number of cannabis plants to be confiscated by the Spanish police has, for the first ever time, eclipsed the Netherlands.

More than three million plants were seized across Spain in 2021. Comparatively, the figure in 2016 was just 724,611.

Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska is perturbed over what he describes as an “enormous growth” of drug gangs across the European country. 

On December 14, he noted that there was “a relevant increase in crime associated with cannabis,” including incidents of electricity fraud, human trafficking, money laundering and gun possession.

“The threat to public safety is growing steadily and worryingly, “ said the minister.

Illegal cannabis in Southern Spain: The city of Almeria represents a major problem area for lawmakers 

Last year, a little more than 630,000 cannabis plants were seized in the Almeria province of Andalusia, southern Spain, by Civil Guard officers. Comparatively, that figure rested at just 34,000 the year prior.

What’s more, data published by the Andalusian government and the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture showed that the province had 230 hectares of illegal cannabis cultivation space in 2021, whereas there was no cannabis being illegally grown on Andalusian soil in 2018.

Catalonia, Castilla-La Mancha, Murcia, Valencia and a number of other regions throughout Spain have also seen a noticeable increase in illegal cannabis plantations

The Home Office is initiating a defense program against Spain’s legal cannabis strike

In recent times, there’s been an influx of purchases for farmland and greenhouses across Spain. Many of these purchases are believed to stem from criminal organizations that are attempting to expand upon their existing inland plantations by cultivating what they claim to be industrial hemp.

This is according to an anti-drug prosecutor in Almeria named Maria Ángeles Perez. Her team has worked closely with the Civil Guard to eradicate illegal cannabis in Southern Spain. She says that many illegal producers have fabricated absurd explanations as to why they are growing the plant, e.g. to expand upon an existing “review of the literature” on cancer. 

Perez says that other illegally operating workers claim to still be in the process of applying for a legal cultivation license. Fortunately, efforts are being made to stamp out the rising number of illicit cannabis grow sites in Spain, with the Home Office recently having formed an initiative to prevent cannabis smuggling.