UK police seize £62m of cannabis in a year
Police seize on average a quarter of a million cannabis plants with a total street value of more than £62m a year, a report has said.
The figures are from a National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) study which added the commercial cultivation of cannabis "continues to pose a significant risk to the UK".
The information, based on returns from 27 police forces across the UK, said 276,676 plants were seized in 2013/14 which would have a street value of £62,460,528.
It said in some cases the production and selling of the class B drug was used to fund other criminal activity, including money laundering, human trafficking and illegal immigration.
Conviction data cited in the report from police forces said the majority of those caught commercially cultivating cannabis are white British men aged between 25 and 34 years of age, but that foreign nationals are smuggled into the UK and work as gardeners on large cannabis grows.
It said: "Whilst crime data continues to show a decline in activity among South East Asian offenders and organised crime groups, intelligence returns confirm they still play a significant role in the cultivation of cannabis.
"Reports suggest a new trend of cultivation sites being controlled by white British organised crime groups which employ Vietnamese nationals who are forced to work in cultivation."
It also found that nine out of ten cannabis farms - those with more than 25 plants - were based in residential properties.
The UK National Profile for the Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis said the number of offences linked to the commercial cultivation of cannabis reduced by 5.6% between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
This follows a decrease of 3.7% between 2011/12 and 2012/13, and means between 2011 and 2014 there was an average of five offences recorded per 100,000 population, according to the report.
NPCC lead on Cannabis, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson said: "Tackling the criminals at the source of wholesale cannabis cultivation remains a key priority for us.
"The report highlights the links with violence, class A drugs and other serious criminality including human trafficking and modern slavery.
"Possessing, growing or selling cannabis is illegal. The police have a wide variety of powers at their disposal tackle criminal activity involving cannabis and will not hesitate to do so where it is in the public interest."