The 2019 European Drug Report, published on 6 June, reveals that European authorities continue to seize record amounts of cocaine whilst differing legislation on low-THC cannabis products raise regulatory issues.

The 2019 European Drug Report follows on from last year's finding, affirming both that cannabis is the most widely-used drug in the European Union and that the cocaine market continues to experience a boom.

Overall, over 96 million European citizens aged between 15 and 64 (or 29% of the adult population) have taken illicit drugs at one point in their lives. The most commonly used drug amongst all age groups, including in Luxembourg, is cannabis. Generally, Europeans tend to smoke cannabis alongside tobacco and the report outlines that use ranges from the occasional consumption to dependent behaviour.

© 2019 European Drug Report

The estimate of cannabis users is close to the overall drug consumption estimate: the report has calculated that approximately 91.2 million adults in the European Union have consumed cannabis at some point in their lives, with 24.7 million having taken the drug in 2018. Finally, the report estimates that 1% of the adult population are daily cannabis takers, the majority of whom are under the age of 35 and male. 9.8% of young adults in Luxembourg (between 15 and 34 years old) are estimated to have taken cannabis in the last year.

The report also explored rapid developments concerning cannabis in the form of low-strength herbal cannabis oils, often sold in health shops. These products, containing cannabidiol (CBD), are marketed with health benefits. However, the report outlines that different member-states have different regulations concerning low-THC products: "Some EU Member States regard low-THC products as cannabis extracts subject to criminal penalties; others consider them medicines that cannot be sold without authorisation; a few classify them as products that do not pose a threat to public health and so do not require any licence for trade." Consequently, there are regulatory difficulties at both the European and national levels.

Cocaine at an 'all-time high'

The report further reveals that the cocaine market continues to grow, based on both the number of seizures and volumes seized. A further indicator of the growing cocaine market is the fact that cocaine being sold is generally at the highest purity seen in the past decade.

The report categories cocaine as the most commonly used illicit stimulant in Europe, with around 18 million adults in the EU having tried cocaine at one point in their lives. Whilst the report acknowledges the different types of users, namely those who sniff powder cocaine and those who inject or smoke crack, the datasets were not always able to differentiate between the two.