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Cannabis production in Belgium: assessment of the nature and harms, and implications for priority setting (CANMARKT)

Research project DR/63 (Research action DR)


Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  DECORTE Tom - Universiteit Gent (RUG)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed foreign partner
    Duration: 1/2/2012-31/7/2013
  • Dr.  PAOLI Letizia - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/2/2012-31/7/2013

Description :

Description

Over the last 30 years major changes on the supply side of cannabis have occurred. The shift to (inter)regional production, trade and domestic production of cannabis has become an irreversible international trend. Belgium has been catching up with this trend: the number of plantations that have been dismantled by the authorities has increased sharply in recent years. Many of them are indoor operations, located near the Dutch border, set up for commercial purposes. These changes in the organization of the cannabis market raise important questions, in terms of estimating the size of the domestic cultivation industry, in terms of opportunities for new and existing offenders to enter the illegal trade, etc. Furthermore, the rise of domestic or regional cannabis cultivation is associated with heightened levels of criminal organization, involvement of ‘gangs’ and higher levels of violence.
Typologies of cannabis cultivators always include large-scale (commercially oriented) growers on the one hand, and small scale cultivators (‘home growers’ ) on the other, and a grey zone in between (‘social-commercial cultivators’). Little is known about the exact market share and role of these different types of cannabis producers. Perhaps the most pressing policy issues relate to the differential harmfulness of activities within each type of cannabis producers, and the differential impact of the Belgian drug policy on different segments and networks of the cannabis production market.

Objectives

This study pursues the following five objectives:
1) to describe the organization of cannabis production in Belgium,
2) to create typologies of different types of cannabis producers in Belgium and identify their modi operandi and aims;
3) to assess the market significance of different types of cannabis producers in Belgium (i.e. market segments);
4) to estimate the harms associated with different types of producers and 5) to evaluate the impact of the Belgian drug policy strategies on them.

Methodology

Two main sets of data collection methods will be used:
1) A large-scale anonymous, quantitative web survey among Flemish and Walloon small-scale cannabis producers. The basic module of the web survey questionnaire is developed on the basis of earlier exploratory studies on small scale cannabis cultivation, and will simultaneously be used in (independent en nationally funded) web surveys set up in the US, Canada, Australia and a few European countries in 2011 and 2012, thus allowing for international comparisons.
2) analysis of min. 40 criminal proceedings, at least 20 qualitative interviews with law enforcement officers and other experts and 15 qualitative interviews with imprisoned cannabis producers. We also intend to analyse the data file for all the cases of cannabis production listed in the Organized Crime Database of the Belgian Federal Police during the years 2003-2010.

Expected outcome

In particular, the two sets of data will serve to identify the modus operandi of different cannabis producers: patterns and careers of cultivation, technical aspects of growing operations , supply channels for seeds or cuttings, average yields per plant, size of growing operations, number of harvests, destination of harvest, motives for growing, contacts with other growers, labour division and specialisation, financial turn-over, etc. The data will also enable us to identify “accompanying activities”, such as the use and threat of violence and corruption. Typologies of the different producers and their profiles and aims will be created.
We will use a business model of a criminal activity (developed in the ‘Danger’ project that is financed by Belspo) to characterize the key operational phases of the activity and, for complex crimes, the functions and modes of “accompanying” and “enabled” activities.
This business model will provide essential “building blocks” of information, that will enable us to identify, evaluate, and assess the harms associated with the different cannabis producers in Belgium, on the basis of a harm assessment framework developed by Greenfield and Paoli (2011). This framework draws together a model of the criminal activity, a taxonomy of the types and bearers of harms (, scales for evaluating the severity and incidence of harms, and a matrix for prioritizing harms.
All our data collection methods will also include entries on cannabis producers’ efforts to anticipate and react to law enforcement interventions. By analyzing these data in light of the Federale Drugsnota and by assessing the causality of the harms and in particular, the extent to which such harms are a consequence of the current prohibitive policies, we will also be able to evaluate the impact of the Belgian drug policy strategies on the different types of cannabis producers.
Any effort or activity to reduce cannabis supply must be well-structured, which means the whole criminal drug supply chain needs to be charted, including the origin of the cannabis, the organizers and commissioners of the cannabis production, and the market outlets and the criminal profits. Special attention must be given to adequate description and representation of the phenomenon and transfer of useful information. The analysis of the organization and structure of the supply side of the cannabis market in Belgium will provide evidence for strategic, operational and tactical priority setting: they will allow to compare the harmfulness of criminal activities within different segments of the cannabis market, to identify the most harmful perpetrators, and to identify and to compare the impact of current and proposed policies in Belgium. This knowledge will be useful for policy-makers, including law enforcement strategic planning advisers.


Documentation :

Cannabisproductie in België: evaluatie van de aard en de schadelijkheid en de implicaties voor prioriteitsbepaling (CANMARKT) : samenvatting  Decorte, Tom - Paoli, Letizia  Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2014 (SP2597)
[To download

Culture de cannabis en Belgique: définition de la nature et des dommages, et les implications pour la fixation des priorités (CANMARKT) : résumé  Decorte, Tom - Paoli, Letizia  Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2014 (SP2598)
[To download

Cannabis production in Belgium: assessment of the nature and harms, and implications for priority setting (CANMARKT) : summary  Decorte, Tom - Paoli, Letizia  Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2014 (SP2599)
[To download

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