A fifth of Britain’s £10billion-a-year illegal drugs trade is fuelled by cannabis.
Cannabis sales were £2b a year in 2019 according to a government report.
Dame Carol wrote: “Use has increased across a wide range of demographic groups, but much of the increase in the number of users has been driven by white males under 30.”
And drug-related killings have increased by 50 per cent in the last five years, the study by Dame Carol Black found.
Children are also being pulled into drug dealing, especially at the most violent end of the market.
The number of very young children linked to the drugs trade is at an unprecedented level and use among 11 to 15-year-olds has soared by 40 per cent since 2014.
The explosion in county lines gangs battling to take control of markets in towns traditionally not blighted by drugs has fuelled Britain’s violent crime crisis, said the report, published yesterday to coincide with a conference on the subject in Glasgow.
Kit Malthouse, Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service, who chaired the drugs summit, said: “The findings are troubling and paint a stark picture of how illegal drugs are devastating lives and communities, and fuelling serious violence.
Predominantly dealing crack cocaine and heroin, county lines gangs also sell powder cocaine to further increase their profits.
They often rely on children to run drugs, sell them, fight over their patches and protect the cash.
Research also suggested young drug dealers “lack foresight and are more likely to use violence to settle disputes”. Albanian organised crime groups dominate Britain’s cocaine market, the review found, while heroin is imported by Pakistani and Turkish criminals.
Cocaine users spend £2,152 per year on their habit, the review shows. The number of people taking the drug has soared by 200,000 in five years.
Around three million people used drugs last year and the illicit drugs market is now worth an estimated £9.4billion a year.
The cocaine market is estimated to be worth £2billion a year, while heroin is worth £4billion. Cannabis is also worth £2billion to criminals.
Deadly opiate fentanyl could also become a mainstream drug given its low manufacturing cost, high potency and ease of distribution through the post.
Much of the violence has increased due to the increased availability of crack cocaine and heroin. The report found: “The heroin and crack cocaine retail market has been overtaken by the county lines model, which is driving increased violence in the drugs market and the exploitation of young people and vulnerable drug users.”
In some parts of the country, crack cocaine use has rocketed by more than 500 per cent.
Dame Carol warned some longterm heroin users were also beginning to take crack as dealers aggressively market both substances together.
Rob Jones, National Crime Agency director of threat leadership, said: “Illegal drugs are a corrosive threat that is ruining lives and bringing exploitation and violence to our communities.
“The review highlights the destructive impact illegal drugs have on society and offers recognition of the positive action being taken by the National Crime Agency and policing to tackle the threat.