How to destroy a million kilos of drugs without harming the environment

  • Interior Ministry technicians test a method to eliminate seized marijuana in situ

  • A thousand tons of drugs are already accumulating in police stations awaiting judicial permission

  • Bales in police custody leave officers without parking

Technicians from the Ministry of the Interior have tested for the Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO) a new method to destroy marijuana in situ seized in anti-drug operations and avoid incineration, in addition to storing less in police facilities.

The test has been carried out on a farm in the province of Toledo recently. The location is reserved for the moment. CITCO sources explain that it has been done with judicial observers and using a modified combine harvester. The idea is that the machine enters the plantation – or is located next to an indoor cultivation basement – and pulverizes the apprehended plants.

“We are not going to do the Colombian, entering the farm and setting fire; that pollutes too much & rdquor ;, these sources explain. They have instructions from the Government to find a quick and non-polluting method of disposal of caches to end the “serious logistical problem & rdquor; recently admitted by Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, in reference to the custody of the seized drug.

This year there are already accumulated in the hands of the security forces a million kilos of different drugs waiting for a judicial order of elimination, according to the same sources, and the Government faces the problem of destroying them by the least harmful method for the environment.

Lots in the garage

Marijuana is not the heaviest, but it is the heaviest, more than bales of hashish. Cocaine packages weigh and occupy less – and not only statistically – and pills and heroin marginally. But the problem is general: at the end of the year, the samples of stored caches become so many that they eat up the space available in police stations and barracks.

In the important headquarters of the Civil Guard in the southern half of the country, and in many of the Mossos -Catalunya is the second community in volume of seizures-, stored marijuana leaves public security officials without parking, and they have to leave their vehicles outside.

“And it is not only that: it is also what it smells,” says a mossa attached to the central services of the Catalan police, in the Egara Complex, in Sabadell-. In my building you know when you’re running over a lot of dope. There are corridors above the garage where, until the drug dries, the smell is very strong & rdquor ;.

Narcotics remain “in ward & rdquor;says this agent, until the investigating judge of the operation in which they were seized issues a car authorizing their destruction. The period of judicial investigation of a medium-complexity anti-narcotics police coup is 15 months. And the drug is piling up.

This year ends with a million kilos of drugs from old seizures awaiting destruction, but more are coming: according to the most recent CITCO statistics, 581,252 kilos of drugs were seized in 2020: hashish (474 ​​tons), marijuana (70 tons), cocaine (37 tons) and heroin (179 kilos) & mldr; plus what they weigh (which is not calculated) 1,880,512 ecstasy pills, methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs intervened by the security forces.

In that pile, marijuana is the one that expands the most in basements and parking lots of the agents: if in 2020 guards, policemen, mossos and ertzainas seized 1,700,462 plants, the balance of 2021 will leave those figures short: the 14 of December 3,071,000 plants were already uprooted, according to the CITCO count on anti-drug operations by all police forces. In 2016, just five years ago, they caught 724,611 plants, almost five times less.

“The situation is eparticularly concerning regarding storage of the intervened substances, since in many cases the accumulation exceeds the capacity of the tanks, which generates serious security issues and public health & rdquor ;, says the Government’s ‘Practical guide to action on the seizure, custody and destruction of drugs’. The document, from 2015, establishes that “whenever possible, the destruction of the intervened cache must occur at the very beginning of the procedure & rdquor ;.


The police look for trustworthy places to burn the drug; You can’t set a million kilos on fire just anywhere. Cogersa, the Asturian public firm that manages the Gijón urban waste incinerator, is the largest drug burning point in Spain.

According to company sources, there 70% of seized narcotics is destroyed in the country. And it is done in the midst of strict security measures. The trucks with the cargo carry a police custody; very few employees, and always the same ones, know what day comes the drug; the chain of custody requires specialized police, signatures of deposit and receipt certificates and completion of a form with the reason for the transport and a Destruction Certificate signed by all those involved.

There are other incinerators with government contracts, but Interior names are saved For security. “It is confidential at their request as well & rdquor ;, explains a source from State Security. If disclosed, firms would be forced to hire more surveillance than they already have.

In Catalonia, the preferred destination for destruction are the furnaces of Tersa in Sant Adrià del Besós (Barcelona). It is a public company for waste treatment and energy recovery, the same company that the Mossos led to burn boxes of papers intercepted by the National Police in the investigations into the 1-0 referendum.

The burning of cannabinoids involves more of a problem due to its volume than its composition. Incinerating cocaine requires a special type of filter in the chimney, as one of the residues of combustion is chlorine.

Judge’s decision

The slowness of the judicial processes aggravates the accumulation of seizures. As early as July 1994, the government of Felipe Gonzalez prompted a change in article 338 of the Criminal Procedure Law: “In the event of drug seizure, reality advises that such destruction be, except for exceptions, mandatory & rdquor ;, explained the preamble to the law.

Since then, the investigating judge of a drug seizure must consider “the actual or potential danger that involves its storage or custody & rdquor ;. And so he will listen to the prosecutor “and to the owner, if he is known & rdquor ;, of the seized effects and” he will order his immediate destruction keeping sufficient samples of these substances & rdquor ;.

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A 2012 agreement signed by the Interior, Justice, Finance and the Spanish Medicines Agency insists on “sufficient samples & rdquor ;.” Expect the police to address the judge requesting destruction. Then, “the competent judge will order the immediate destruction of the & rdquor; cache, he says,“ keeping only sufficient samples of said substances to guarantee further verification & rdquor ;. The problem is how much is “show enough & rdquor;. The agreement says that it is “the amount of drug that guarantees the practice of counter-analysis & rdquor ;.

Usually, in a large plantation, the Civil Guard takes 10 out of 30 plants at random and, following a United Nations convention, puts the sample to dry, and the weight of the dried buds is extrapolated to the rest of the seized. “You can not save little,” explains an Andalusian special prosecutor, because the smugglers’ lawyers always resort asking for the weight of all seized plants & rdquor ;.

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