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Record number of raids on Swedish drug farms

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Record number of raids on Swedish drug farms
Increasing amounts of marijuana is being grown in Sweden. Photo: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
11:28 CEST+02:00
Swedes are growing more and more cannabis. Never before have so many illegal drug farms been reported to the police, according to Swedish media.

Last week The Local reported that two men had been sent to prison after 570 cannabis plants – enough to produce around 31 kilogram of marijuana – were discovered at a disused school in Lysekil in western Sweden in a raid eight months ago.

And the incident is just one in a growing series of drugs hauls recovered in the Nordic country over the past decade.

In 2014 a total of 904 cannabis farms were reported to the police – more than quadruple the 211 reports officers received in 2004, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet, BRÅ).

“Large-scale production of cannabis has definitely increased and is expected to rise even further,” Torstein Norman, section head of the national police's intelligence department, told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN).

He spoke as a number of suspects in the biggest cannabis case in Swedish history were facing sentencing later on Wednesday. Some 20 people involved in the court case are accused of having set up seven marijuana factories, hiring paperless refugees to run the farms.

DEBATE: Should Sweden make cannabis use legal?

Organized crime is believed to be behind most drug farms in Sweden. They are usually located in deserted houses in the Swedish countryside. But not always. Raids carried out by police also regularly discover wardrobes or basements converted into mini-greenhouses.

“The larger the farm, the more organization is required. But in some cases it may just be about pure entrepreneurial spirit,” Norman told DN.

However, illegal drugs are also flooding into Sweden from abroad, with 2,398 seizures of a total of 860 kilogram of marijuana and cannabis by Swedish Customs last year. The majority entered the country via the Öresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark.

“On the Öresund Bridge alone we carry out on average seven seizures of narcotics in 24 hours. 90 percent of those are cannabis,” Håkan Hansson of Customs' border department in Malmö told DN.

Earlier this month Malmö police called for tougher border checks on the crossing that links the southern Swedish city to Copenhagen in a bid to clamp down on illegal weapons pouring into Sweden via the Danish capital.

Sweden has by and large a 'zero tolerance' approach to drugs, although calls for legalizing the drug are sometimes heard. The Nordic country criminalized illicit drug use in 1988, following a two-year attempt to introduce a more tolerant approach that was considered a failure by authorities.

Anyone suspected of being 'high' can be detained and given a compulsory urine test. If positive, they are slapped with a criminal charge and must stand trial.

According to figures released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) last year, only nine percent of the Swedish school population has tried cannabis, compared to 39 percent in France, 42 percent in the Czech Republic and around 25 percent in Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

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