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UN says South Africa is the third biggest producer of illicit cannabis in Africa – after Morocco and Egypt

UN says South Africa is the third biggest producer of illicit cannabis in Africa – after Morocco and Egypt

Cannabiz Africa

15 September 2022, 14:00:00

The United Nations World Drug Report 2022 says cannabis remains the most widely-used drug and that seizures of illegal flower and resin are on the rise.

Cannabis remains the most widely used drug world- wide, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime's (UNOCD) annual Drug Report. In 2020, more than 4 per cent of the global population aged 15–64 (209 million people) had used cannabis in the past year. 


It said "the prevalence of past-year cannabis use has increased by 8 per cent, from 3.8 per cent in 2010, while the number of people who used cannabis in the past year increased by 23 per cent, from 170 million in 2010, partly owing to increase in global population".


Prevalence of use of cannabis varies widely by region and is highest in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and West Africa. 


The report says “cannabis cultivation has trended upward for a decade” and that “qualitative assessment trends reported by member states in 2020 suggest that this reflected growing cannabis resin trafficking activities worldwide.”


Seizures of illegal cannabis outside North America reached an all-time high in 2020 as cannabis cultivation spread to every region of the world.


The report says that cannabis is illicitly produced in everywhere: "Cannabis cultivation was reported either through direct indicators (such as cultivation or eradication of plants or eradication of production sites) or indirect indicators (seizure of plants, reports on origin of seized cannabis) by at least 154 countries in the period 2010–2020. If qualitative information on indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation trends is also considered, this number rises to more than 190 countries and territories. That distinguishes cannabis from coca/cocaine and opium poppies/opiates, for which cultivation/production is concentrated in a much smaller number of countries and, hence, their illicit trade is most often international in the sense of crossing international borders.


“This halted a decade of declining seizures of cannabis herb, a trend which accelerated in the period 2015–2019 when a number of jurisdictions in North America legalized non-medical cannabis. The increase in global seizures in 2020 is in line with reports that cannabis use increased during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in many countries. The overall year-on-year increase in quantities of cannabis seized amounted close to 20 per cent in 2020, the biggest upward jump since 2015”, according to the UN report.


South Africa is ranked as the third biggest producer of illicit cannabis in Africa, after Morocco and Egypt. The other major African producers are Nigeria, Eswatini, Ghana and Zambia.


Unlike many other drugs, cultivation, trafficking and use of cannabis herb takes place primarily within the same region or subregion.


“Seizure and other data suggest that most trafficking of cannabis resin is from Morocco to Spain, and from Afghanistan to other countries of West Asia. Spain serves as the primary gateway for markets in Western and Central Europe. Cannabis resin from Morocco is also destined for other North African countries. Intra-regional trafficking runs from Morocco to Libya and then Egypt, via the Sahel, as well as internal land routes from western Algeria to that country’s borders with Tunisia and Libya, despite strong security controls. Cannabis resin is also transported by sea via the southern Mediterranean coastal route” according to the report.


Indoor cultivation is on the rise. The number of countries reporting indoor cannabis cultivation has risen from 48 to 66 between 2010 and 2016 and now “a total of 98 countries explicitly reported outdoor cannabis cultivation in the latter period”.


“In 2019 and 2020, reported growth in indoor cannabis cultivation appears to have again outpaced growth in outdoor cultivation at the global level, with the overall net number of countries reporting increased indoor cultivation being three times the net number of countries reporting decreased outdoor cultivation. While qualitative reporting has strong limitations, the patterns that emerge from it suggest an upward trend.”


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