The Home Office have published data on the amounts of drugs seized by the police and UK Boarder Agency.
They warn readers that:
The numbers of seizures made are affected by police activity and changes in recording practices and police powers, such as the introduction of cannabis warnings. Therefore, the number of drug seizures made and quantity of drugs seized should not be taken as measures of drug prevalence in England and Wales.
That noted, what comes out is that there is a downward trend in seizures of cocaine – though there was a rise last year. This strikes me as slightly odd as cocaine is the one drug (other than ‘legal highs’) where prevalence trends suggest rising use.
Another oddity, given the policy and political interest in ‘legal highs’ over the last few years, is the lack of data on novel psychoactive substances included here.
When it comes to cannabis what I think we’re seeing is the change from a drug that was imported into the country to one that is now largely grown here.
But looking at the data on the number of plants being seized in each raid it looks like what the police are finding are overwhelmingly relatively small-scale production, with 89% in the range of one to 50 plants.
By contrast there were there were only 44 occasions where between 1,001 and 10,000 plants were found, and a single occasion where over 10,000 plants were seized.
We know that once drugs enter the country they are diluted to increase profitability. What the Home Office figures show is the difference between what is being seized by the Boarder Agency and what the police are finding.
This is also reflected in the number of seizures per million of population.