SCOTLAND has taken on a new, unwanted role in the drugs war as the “drying out” centre for cannabis grown elsewhere in the UK before it is sold on the streets. New figures from the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency show that seizures of cannabis dropped to £4.4 million last year, compared with £6.1m in 2010 and £10.8m in 2009, reflecting a shift away from Scotland’s previous reputation as “the cannabis garden of Europe”. However, Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Whitelock, head of intelligence at SCDEA, said the decline in cannabis cultivation had been overtaken by Scotland’s new role as a place to dry out crops grown in England. “Cannabis cultivations continue to represent a major threat to Scotland’s communities, and police remain committed to tackling this threat,” he said “However, our intelligence suggests that Scotland is being increasingly used by criminal gangs as a ‘drying out’ area for cannabis plants that are grown elsewhere across the UK.” Cannabis is sometimes moved for drying out to avoid detection, make room for more cannabis to be grown and to ensure that, if police do uncover a cannabis factory, as little as possible can be seized in one bust. The problem police face is that, while cannabis factories are relatively easy to spot, with blacked out windows, a buzzing noise from extraction fans and heat emanating through the walls, drying-out locations are less easy to pinpoint.
Cannabis is grown in very hot and moist conditions and then dried in the dark, indoors, at room temperature. Police also believe that improved enforcement has driven cultivation elsewhere in Europe. “There are some signs that organised crime groups involved in cannabis cultivation are moving into other parts of Europe, with cultivations being uncovered by police in Ireland, Spain and Portugal,” Whitelock said. “Our experience shows organised crime groups are now spreading the risk by having smaller production units. “We have also been working in partnership with DIY and utility companies to improve intelligence and make it harder for crime groups to access equipment and materials.” In the first four years of the SCDEA’s cannabis crackdown, Operation League, police destroyed more than 128,000 plants with a combined value of almost £40m. However, support groups for drug users believe there is also a decreasing demand, as increasingly people turn to legal highs. John Arthur, of Crew 2000 in Edinburgh, said: “We’re seeing more people using synthetic cannabis, which is still legal, and the information we’re getting is that often they prefer it too.” The Scottish Government believes the country is becoming increasingly hostile to drug dealers and producers. A spokesman said: “Enforcement is an important component of our national strategy to tackle drug misuse. “The significant amounts of seized illicit drugs sends a clear message that Scotland will not tolerate a criminal trade that damages lives, communities and the economy.”
via : scotsman
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