Gardaí have seized more cannabis herb and cannabis plants this year than during the whole of last year.
Criminal gangs are making massive profits from cannabis factories, with an operation cultivating 1,250 plants per harvest capable of producing €5m worth of plants over five harvests.
The 2012 Annual National Prosecutors’ Conference heard the average strength of cannabis herb plants had jumped from 8.6% in 2000 to 17%-20% today.
Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts of the Garda National Drug Unit told the conference that the street price of cannabis herb had jumped from €12 a gram to over €20 a gram.
He said cannabis factories were one of the “biggest growing crimes” across Europe, with an estimated 1,800 organised criminal gangs operating in Britain.
He said gardaí had seized €32m worth of cannabis herb and cannabis plants so far this year, more than for the whole of 2011.
Det Sgt Roberts said gardaí and prosecutors were being challenged in the courts by defence lawyers over the valuation attached to the cannabis plants seized.
The plants found in cannabis grow houses can be at different stages of cultivation and current and potential valuations can differ greatly. He said under Section 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which carries the mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for drugs worth over €13,000, gardaí cannot use the potential value of plants on cultivation, only what they are currently valued. As a result, they don’t prosecute people under that section. The GNDU, with the endorsement of the DPP, had done a lot of work in putting accurate valuations on plants and potential yields.
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