It seems that Covid-19 has had a distinct impact on the global cannabis trade, as revealed by a new report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The report, released in Vienna last week, has recorded a sharp increase in illegal cannabis sales globally. It seems that after people are done stockpiling toilet paper, they turn to cannabis next.
Globally, over 192 million people use cannabis, with the UN measuring a 30% increase in the number of people using drugs worldwide between 2009 and 2018. In the Covid-19 era, it seems that stricter border controls and social distancing restrictions have caused illegal cannabis traffickers to change their strategy. Traffickers have been forced to find alternative routes for transporting cannabis during the lockdown, causing an increase in the amount of cannabis bought on the darknet and shipped through the postal service.
While more illegal cannabis is reaching customers, the purity of the drug has dramatically decreased while the price of per gram has shot up. Traffickers are trying to sell more dope but have access to less supply – leading to dangerous shortcuts.
The report also stresses that the pandemic may cause governments to turn a blind eye to the trafficking of low-quality drugs, causing a potential public health crisis if funding is ripped from programs for drug-dependent people post-pandemic. UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly was quoted as saying:
We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support.
Interestingly, the UN believes that pandemic-inspired price-hike is only occurring in countries who haven’t legalised the recreational use of cannabis. While cannabis sales increased by 30% during the pandemic, prices remained the same throughout the US.
More generally, the report also shows the impact of legalisation on illegal drug trafficking operations. While cannabis use increased in Canada and the US after legalisation, the number of seizures of drug trafficking operations decreased – even though the amount of cannabis trafficked globally has doubled in ten years.
The reports also confirmed the findings reported by the American Academy of Pain Medicine last week. The UN report states that while cannabis is the world’s widest used drug, opioids accounted for 66% of drug-related deaths in 2017.