Police and justice ministry officials are launching a major crack down on organised gangs who engage in large-scale marijuana growing, the public prosecution department said on Sunday.
In particular, police efforts will focus on international drugs gangs who oversee the entire process, from 'production to exports and laundering the criminal proceeds' the department said in a statement.
Although growing marijuana plants is technically illegal, in practice police take no action against people who grow up to five plants. The possession of up to five grammes of cannabis is similarly ignored.
However, police figures show the growing of marijuana has 'left its innocent character far behind', the department said.
Some 8,000 professional plantations are found in private homes, in commercial properties and in farm sheds every year. In September alone, police in Limburg found seven large and 87 small plantations hidden in sweet corn fields after police flew over the region in a helicopter. The biggest had 15,000 plants.
'Estimates show the Netherlands has some 30,000 to 40,000 marijuana plantations. Some 80% to 90% is for export... there is a growing export sector which is damaging our image,' the department said.
The department estimates the Dutch marijuana industry to turn over between €2.5bn and €5bn a year, making the plant one of the country's biggest cash crops behind tomatoes and cucumbers.
As well as the export of illegal drugs, there is increasing violence between drugs gangs involved in this lucrative trade, the department said.
Between 2000 and 2006, it is thought 25 people were killed in drugs-related violence in the six southern police regions alone.
November 30, 2009