Garda begin seizing highly-potent cannabis

The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has begun seizing a highly-potent cannabis product that is about four times stronger than regular herbal cannabis.

The concentrated substance, which has been found during gangland drugs searches, is known as “cannabis shatter” or “weed shatter”.

Some 490g of the drug, valued at about €32,000, was seized by the bureau during its operations in the first 11 months of the year, figures provided to The Irish Times show. The drug had never been seized by the Garda before this year, senior sources said.

Cannabis resin or hash, which was once the most popular drug in the State, was not found during any searches by the bureau in the period to the end of November.

Garda sources said it had been almost completely displaced by herbal cannabis or weed on the Irish drugs market.

THC rate

Up until about 15 to 20 years ago cannabis resin, a crumbly substance sprinkled into tobacco and rolled up, dominated the Irish drugs trade and had a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) rate of about 7 per cent. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabis herb, a dried plant that is smoked, often has a THC rate of about 20 per cent.

However, cannabis shatter often has a THC rate of 80 per cent. Some advertisements for cannabis shatter, which is legal in parts of the United States, claim to have THC rates above 95 per cent.

Cannabis shatter resembles honey in colour but is solid like toffee. It is made from trichomes, or fluff-like growth, on the outside of cannabis plants which are separated from the plant using butane gas.

The trichomes are gathered and heated to remove the butane. The resulting substance is then mixed to a creamy or thick liquid texture and solidifies into thin slabs known as “shatter”.

‘Crack of cannabis’

The substance is consumed by users by heating it and inhaling the smoke. It is sometimes referred to as “the crack of cannabis” as it is smoked in a similar way to crack cocaine, often in a pipe.

Cannabis shatter can lead to poisoning, especially when consumed by people who are not experienced with smoking or consuming cannabis.

While cannabis possession for personal use was added to the adult caution system in December, meaning a first-time offence will not lead to a conviction, that measure only applies to cannabis resin and herbal cannabis. Cannabis shatter or other cannabis products are not included.

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