Putting ‘Europe’s Biggest Cannabis Farm’ Bust Into Context

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Historically, I have always shied away from writing about cannabis busts. Having been present at no less than 3 no-knock raids in my youth, and having guns pointed at my face during the course of the raids, I know firsthand how traumatic the experience can be. Many members of my family have also been subjected to the practice due to cannabis prohibition.

With that being said, there was a recent cannabis bust in Europe that I felt was worthy of discussion. The bust occurred in rural Spain, and international media coverage ran with the claim that it was the ‘biggest cannabis farm’ in Europe. The numbers involved were definitely significant – over 415,000 plants ‘worth up to €100m.’ Per Sky News:

Police have raided what is believed to be Europe’s biggest cannabis farm in Spain.

Officers destroyed 415,000 hemp plants, worth up to €100m (more than £83m) at a plantation in the rural northern region of Navarre.

Around 50 tonnes of the plant were being dried in a warehouse to be processed into cannabidiol (CBD) – a non-psychoactive compound increasingly used to treat health conditions including anxiety and insomnia.

If you are like me, then you locked in on that last sentence in the cited media coverage. The plants involved were not high-THC strains. Rather, they were hemp plants and were being cultivated for the sole purpose of producing CBD products.

CBD is legal in Spain, yet, cultivating cannabis outside of very limited circumstances is still prohibited. Cannabis can be cultivated for making textiles, producing seeds, and for medical research purposes in Spain. In all of those instances, a government license is required, and it appears that the farm where this bust occurred did not have a license.

The number of plants involved in this case in Spain may seem like an enormous amount, however, it’s important to put the operation into context. The entire operation was roughly 166 acres in size. As far back as 2015, at least one farm in the United States had an operation that was nearly twice the size of this one in Spain, and it was operating legally.

According to data from 2019, at that time nearly two dozen countries in Europe had legal hemp industries that cultivated more than 166 acres. France alone had over 44,000 acres (converted from hectares) of agricultural land dedicated to cultivating hemp according to the previously cited data. If the people in Spain operating the farm at the heart of this article were doing so without a license, so be it.

However, when people read sensational headlines involving hundreds of thousands of plants ‘worth up to 100 million euros’ it’s important for people to keep in mind that it was hemp plants being cultivated for CBD purposes and that there are legal hemp farms out there that completely dwarf the size of the farm in question in Spain. Always make sure to sidestep the reefer madness propaganda and keep things in perspective when reading media coverage.

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