Value of cannabis plants as reported in the media

Project Supporters:

Colonial Foundation Trust

Drug Type:
image - Dpmp2
Project Members
image - Marian Shanahan
Conjoint Senior Lecturer
Ph 02 9385 0333
Project Main Description

The dollar value of drug seizures, often referred to as the ‘street value’ is a widely used indicator of the size of a drug seizure, particularly when reported in the mass media. Seizure values have in the past been used as a surrogate measure for the effectiveness of law enforcement interventions. This project aimed to examine the accuracy of the media reported value of seized hydroponic cannabis plants, by comparing the figures printed in major Australian newspapers, with a research-based estimate constructed by the authors.


The reported value of cannabis seizures in this sample of newspaper articles were highly inflated when compared with the authors’ estimated value. Fifteen articles referred to 14 separate seizure events (one article referred to separate seizures, and in two other cases a single seizure was referred to by two separate articles). The size of the reported seizures ranged from 100 plants to 2500 plants, with reported values of seizures ranging between $125 000 and $20 million. The median price per cannabis plant from the newspaper reports was $4432. The reported newspaper values appear consistent with those found in news reports from the USA, where cannabis plants were estimated to be valued at between $US3000 and $US5000, according to news reports in 2006. The reported newspaper values of seizures were between 1.8 and 11.9 times higher than our middle estimate. Reported estimates are provided by police via press release (not constructed by journalists).

Implications for policy: Inflated seizure values may overstate the effectiveness of law enforcement interventions, and they may also overstate the size or profitability of the cannabis market itself.

Project Supporters

Colonial Foundation Trust

Project Collaborators: External

Francis Matthew-Simmons
formerly NDARC

Project Research Area
Drug Type
Project Status
Date Commenced

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