Covid triggered stockpiling of cannabis, analysis shows

Drug users stocked up on cannabis products over the darkweb in February and March in anticipation of the Covid-19 lockdown, while the sale of MDMA has largely declined in the same period as people faced the prospect of more time alone.
Covid triggered stockpiling of cannabis, analysis shows
File image

Drug users stocked up on cannabis products over the darkweb in February and March in anticipation of the Covid-19 lockdown, while the sale of MDMA has largely declined in the same period as people faced the prospect of more time alone.

The lockdown has forced vendors to cut prices, offer discounts and maintain consumer confidence as they respond to new restrictions all over Europe.

A new, EU-wide analysis of the drugs trade said the virus pandemic has had a major impact on the sale and distribution of some products.

The report, published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), focused on three darknet markets - Agartha, Cannazon and Versus - in the first three months of 2020. Further monitoring is planned by the EMCDDA in the coming months.

The analysis revealed an overall spike in the sale of cannabis products. There was a decline in the number of high value sales but a significant increase in smaller value sales. The value of sales declined by 20% but, for the same period, the volume increased by 30%.

This data on cannabis shows, on the one hand, those buying volumes of cannabis for sale or supply have reduced their activity, anticipating that resale may be more difficult due to social distancing measures. At the same time, established or new buyers seeking cannabis for personal use are increasing their activity on the market. This may explain the rising number of cannabis sales over time but diminishing revenues.

Cannazon, a market devoted to cannabis products, sold an estimated €4.3m worth of products over the three months, representing 1.6 metric tonnes.

"The cannabis market is a large one and many regular cannabis users may have decided to stock up, anticipating market disruption during the lockdown period," the report said.

"To some extent, this is observed in the data where an increase in online trade via darknet markets, driven largely by cannabis products, can be seen in February and March."

In contrast, the report shows a decline in the demand for synthetic drugs commonly used in recreational settings, such as MDMA. This is attributed to people spending more time at home in isolation.

Isolation and lockdown measures have caused problems for many vendors, who have reacted in different ways. Some appear to be trying to maintain consumer confidence by informing buyers that they are operating in ‘business as usual’ mode.

Others have reacted to reduced demand for some drugs by trying to stimulate sales using marketing techniques, such as discounts. Another group have opted to suspend their activities or explain to their buyers that they can expect some disruption.

The report warns that a shift towards online drug supply, including the use of social media, secure messaging apps and darknet markets, would pose a major issue for law enforcement.

"If vendors and buyers switch to this type of technology, activities will not be visible through current darknet monitoring and interdiction will be more challenging," concludes the report.

In the markets analysed, drug sales appear to originate manily from the United Kingdom and Germany. Both countries were listed as the shipping country for just under 80% of sales, with France accounting for just 6% and and Spain 4%.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.