Minister Opstelten Toughens Measures Against Illegal Cannabis Growing

Minister of Security and Justice Opstelten intends to make all actions of persons and companies involved in the preparation and promotion of illegal cannabis growing punishable, even if they are not involved in growing cannabis themselves. Offenders risk a prison sentence of three years. The size and professionalism of illegal cannabis growing pose a safety risk to society, which requires decisive and effective action. This is evident from a legislative proposal that will be submitted to the Council of State for advice in the near future.

The current legislation does not allow for sufficiently strong action to be taken against persons and companies that do not grow cannabis themselves, but do make their money by supplying the relevant goods and services, and by financing illegal cannabis growing. The new legislation will change this, so that all links in the preparation stage of the cannabis production chain can be tackled. The legislative proposal is the final step in the judicial process to actually downsize illegal cannabis growing. In 2009 alone, 4,727 illegal cannabis nurseries were dismantled and 850,000 cannabis plants were confiscated.

The days of the small hobby grower are over. Illegal cannabis growing has become more professional. This is evident, for instance, from the improvement of plants and the refinement of growing techniques, the installations for tapping electricity, the organization of the production process, the sale of the end product and the laundering of proceeds. Illegal cannabis growing entails many activities that are not directly related to the growing process. This applies in the first place to ‘growshops’. These have developed into the spiders at the centre of the web of illegal cannabis growing. They not only supply the goods for growing on a large scale, but also arrange for the financing and set-up of cannabis nurseries.

But there are also companies involved that support the process of illegal cannabis growing less conspicuously, such as transport companies and distribution firms, warehouse and shed rentals, and, for instance, electricians who install illegal electrical systems.

Dug-in sea containers which serve as nurseries are also found, including professional equipment that is usually available from specialized companies. There are even fully-equipped growing containers available for purchase, for the illegal cultivation of cannabis (cuttings).

The measure to make preparatory acts for illegal cannabis growing punishable is part of the government’s policy to intensify the fight against illegal cannabis growing. This also applies to the Organized Crime Task Force in Brabant, who recently dismantled 23 cannabis nurseries and arrested 22 persons during a major operation.