EXPERIENCED gardai now privately admit that the State has lost the war against illegal drugs which has fuelled the murderous organised criminal culture of the past 20 years.
Commenting on the recent discovery of cannabis grow houses across Ireland, a senior garda said that the cultivation of the plants had become an "epidemic".
The economics explain why. The "street" value of the cannabis that could be produced by the 6,000 plants recently seized by gardai in the latest set of grow-house raids is, at current rates, approximately €3.6m. Each plant produces around two ounces (56 grammes) of cannabis. The growers sell this at around €150 an ounce to middle men who at least double their price when selling to local dealers. They sell on the drug at around €13 a gramme to Ireland's large constituency of "weekend users", as they were referred to in a recent spat between pro-legalisation TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Dublin Mid West TD Derek Keating.
Last year gardai raided 600 grow houses and by July this year they had seized plants in 574 raids. The industrial-scale grow houses are organised by Chinese Triad gangs who use enslaved labourers, usually Chinese or Vietnamese nationals, to tend to the plants. Some of those arrested were working to pay off gambling debts or were recruited with the promise of payments of as little as €1,500 a month on delivery of their crop.
Mr Keating TD expressed the prevailing political view that the possession and cultivation of drugs should remain a criminal offence.