Reported value of cannabis seizures in Australian newspapers: Are they accurate?


Francis Matthew-Simmons BA, BPPM (Hons), Research Assistant, PhD Candidate, Marian Shanahan MA (Econ), Senior Research Officer, PhD Candidate, Alison Ritter BA (Hons), MA (Clin Psych), PhD, Associate Professor, DPMP Director. Mr Francis Matthew-Simmons, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 (02) 9385 0188; Fax: +61 (02) 9385 0222; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims. The news media is often touted as an important, yet inaccurate source of information about drug issues for the general public. This paper investigates the accuracy of reporting in the Australian media regarding the value of cannabis seizures made by the police. Design and Methods. A sample of Australian newspaper articles, which featured both a direct estimate of the value of a cannabis seizure and the number of plants seized, were examined. The reported values from these articles were then compared with a range of estimates made using data on cannabis plant yield and price, taken from research literature. Results. Fifteen articles were examined, referring to fourteen different seizures. The reported value of cannabis seizures in this sample of articles was highly inflated when compared with the authors' estimated value. The reported newspaper values of seizures were between 1.8 and 11.9 times higher than our middle estimate. Discussion and Conclusions. The most likely reason for the wide difference between the reported and estimated value of these seizures is the possible variability in cannabis plant yield. Whatever the reason for the discrepancy between the reported values and our estimates, greater transparency surrounding the valuations of cannabis seizures would help to better determine the true impacts of law enforcement interventions on this illicit drug supply chain.[Matthew-Simmons F, Shanahan M, Ritter A. Reported value of cannabis seizures in Australian newspapers: Are they accurate? Drug Alcohol Rev 2011;30;21–25]