Cannabis and other crime flourishes in Spain as tourism collapses, reports suggest.
Opium dens and cannabis factories are rampant as European mafias seemingly take over the country.
With high profits and low risk – jail sentences rarely exceed two years – gangs from Europe are fighting one another to control the market, says a report by Catalan police.
The Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, claims “Catalonia is the epicentre of Europe’s illegal marijuana market” and has become a net exporter of cannabis to other European countries.
The report also says that during 2020 – which has been the year of the lockdowns and coronavirus epidemic – police have disrupted 34 criminal organisations connected to cannabis.
319 cannabis plantations have also been seized this year.
The report says that many empty apartments – which would usually be filled with tourists – are now full of cannabis plants which supply a lot of the hundreds of shops in the Barcelona area.
“When we look at what has happened to other countries that are primary drug producers, such as hashish in Morocco or cocaine in Colombia, there’s cause for concern,” said Ramon Chacon, deputy chief of the Mossos d’Esquadra crime squad.
In Spain marijuana sells for €5 a gram, compared with a European average of €15. Chacon says criminal organisations from all over Europe, who used to buy in Spain to sell at home, have now set themselves up as producers in Catalonia.
Even though over a million plants are being destroyed every year it is the money laundering and the corruption it entails which “poses a threat to the real economy and the quality of democracy in Catalonia”, according to Eduard Sallent, the Mossos chief.
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