Cannabis cultivation in Spain: A profile of plantations, growers and production systems

Int J Drug Policy. 2016 Nov;37:70-81. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.08.003. Epub 2016 Sep 10.


Background: The European market for cannabis derivatives is being transformed. The cultivation of cannabis within the EU and the shift of demand from hashish to domestic marihuana are key aspects of this transformation. Spain, formerly central to the trade of Moroccan hashish, is becoming a marihuana-producing country. The emergence of "import-substitution" has been researched in other EU countries, but thus far the Spanish case remains undocumented.

Methods: This paper is based on analysis of data of 748 cannabis plantations seized by Spanish police in 2013. The sample comprises reports of seizures identified through a survey of online news and police reports. "Event-analysis" methods were applied to these sources.

Results: The analysis offers a typology of plantations, a profile of participants and the different production systems, and a model of regional distribution. Half of the plantations were small (less than 42 plants) and half contained between 100 and 1000 plants, with an average size of 261 plants. About three-quarters of plants were cultivated indoors using stolen electricity. 86% of all plants seized were from large-scale plantations (more than 220 plants). Most plantations were located along the Mediterranean coast, where population and tourism are concentrated. Over three-quarters of those indicted by police were Spanish (85%). Among the foreign owners of big plantations, Dutch nationals predominated. The number of seized plants by province was directly associated with the number of grow shops (β=0.962, p<0.001).

Conclusion: The rise of large-scale cannabis plantations in the Spanish Mediterranean coast is increasingly replacing import of Moroccan hashish. Indoor cultivation supported by grow shops, that provide the technology and know-how, seem to be the dominant form of organization in this emerging industry. Large-scale plantations may have met most of the demand for marihuana in 2013.

Keywords: Cannabis cultivation; Cannabis policy; Cannabis supply; Drug markets; Spain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis / growth & development*
  • Commerce / economics
  • Commerce / organization & administration*
  • Crops, Agricultural / economics
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development*
  • Crops, Agricultural / supply & distribution
  • Drug Trafficking* / economics
  • Farmers*
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement
  • Marijuana Abuse* / economics
  • Marijuana Smoking* / economics
  • Models, Organizational
  • Spain