Spain’s Biggest Weed Bust Barely Dents Supply

Recently, Spanish police announced that they had seized 32 tonnes of weed in what is being called the country’s biggest drug bust ever.

But while this might sound like a big deal, the truth is that it barely makes a dent in the country’s overall supply.

Even if it did, countless suppliers would be incentivised to fill the gap in demand, highlighting the failures of a criminalised and unregulated cannabis industry.

Big bust or drop in the ocean?

A widely reported police seizure in Spain saw a record national haul of 32 tonnes of cannabis confiscated.

A series of raids targeted what the Guardia Civil described as a “complex business network” which cultivated cannabis in Spain for distribution domestically and onwards to Europe.

In the east coast city of Valencia, police found 30,500 kilos of vacuum-packed weed buds, 21,600 plants in the drying process, and 231,200 branded, cigarette-style packs of weed. 

Weed is Big Business in Spain

Spain is a large country with a population of over 46 million people. The annual rates of cannabis consumption in Spain is estimated to be 10% of the population.

The illegal weed market in Spain is worth an estimated £2.81 billion per year, which means that the 32 tonnes seized by police only represents a tiny fraction of 1% of the total annual supply.

So even if the bust had been twice as big, it still would have barely made a dent in the overall supply.

Packaged products

A clear sign of the maturity of Spain’s (and Europe’s) illegal cannabis market is the 231,200 branded, cigarette-style packs of weed that was found in the bust.

Alejandra Gómez Céspedes, an international expert on organised crime and former officer at the UN’s office on drugs and crime, told VICE World News she was surprised to see cannabis packaged in branded boxes:

“When we see police operations against illicit cannabis trafficking, the product that is seized is almost always in its natural state such as plants, buds and leaves.

“The images in this video take a qualitative leap. They indicate products ready for a more formalised commercialisation, worthy of a legitimate trade.” 

Why is Weed so Popular in Spain?

There are a few reasons why weed is so popular in Spain.

First of all, the climate is ideal for growing cannabis. Secondly, there is a long history of cannabis use in Spain dating back to the 1600s when it was introduced by Moroccan troops.

These days, Spain has gone from being an importing country to a producer country, with both outdoor and indoor crops common.

In fact, Spain has a well-established network of underground cannabis producers and suppliers – many of whom supply the country’s 500-odd private cannabis social clubs. These non-profit organisations operate in a grey area by collectively growing cannabis and distributing it to registered members.

Lastly, Spanish culture is generally quite tolerant of recreational drug use, which has helped to normalise cannabis use among young people.


While 32 tonnes is a lot of weed, it’s important to keep things in perspective.

The illegal weed market in Spain is worth an estimated £2.81 billion per year, which means that the 32 tonnes seized by police only represents a tiny fraction of 1% of the total annual supply.

So while it’s certainly a big bust, it’s not going to make much of an impact on the overall supply or demand for weed in Spain or anywhere else in Europe.

The demand and supply for cannabis isn’t going anywhere. It would be far wiser to legalise and regulate the industry rather than wasting resources on cannabis seizures that barely dent the overall supply.

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