The lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic has proved good news for cannabis dealers, and the cost of the drug has reportedly more than doubled. Users are thought to be buying in bulk for fear of not getting a supply.

There was one recent episode where police seized a Ford Fiesta that stank of cannabis and contained “a large amount” of the stuff; two people were later arrested. Photo: James

There was one recent episode where police seized a Ford Fiesta that stank of cannabis and contained “a large amount” of the stuff; two people were later arrested. Photo: James

Drug-dealing business is “booming”

One top dealer spoke of panic buying: “the amount of cannabis they’re buying is ridiculous.” In response, his 20 street dealers were dealing only with regular customers. A more modest cannabis dealer informed the highly esteemed Sun newspaper that he was making bags smaller rather than raising prices, but other dealers had had to take this step because they were running out of stock. His business, he remarked, is “booming.” His regular customers – accountants, solicitors and teachers – “are all working from home this week or just at home, bored and still getting paid 80 percent of their wage. They have nothing else to do.” Those working from home remain able to function despite having a J, and their bosses are blissfully unaware, so they’re buying more dope.

But there have been problems

Not everything is going cannabis dealers’ way. Police are checking a greater number of cars on the road, so fewer people are driving while carrying dope. This was borne out by the experience of two dealers from Birmingham who were stopped by police near Newtown in Wales for making an unnecessary journey. The car, a Ford Fiesta, reeked of cannabis. The dealers initially attempted to escape, getting caught after a short chase. Officers found “a large amount” of cannabis in a bag dumped from the car. One of the pair, a 29-year-old, faced charges of driving sans insurance, failing to stop for police and possessing cannabis with intent to supply. The charge levelled against the other, aged 20, was possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

What dealers are doing

With less air travel, dealers are increasingly using the sea. One hash dealer believed the drugs would be concealed among medical supplies: “They will find a way – they always do.”

Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert in illicit trade for the Brookings Institution, believes that cannabis dealers, like other businesses, will use drones. In the meantime, drugs are posted through letterboxes to reduce the chance of infection with Covid-19. Other dealers assured customers the people packing the drugs were wearing latex gloves. Another dealer predicted use of the internet for postal delivery to anonymous addresses. With visits to prisons prohibited, people have taken to throwing cannabis over prison walls: four men were recently arrested for this in Antwerp in Belgium.

Lynne Owens, director-general of the National Crime Agency, told a press conference that “groups are changing their behaviour.” She gave the examples of street dealers wearing high-visibility clothing to resemble key workers and avoid police attention and also selling their wares in supermarket car parks. As one New York cannabis dealer put it, “I can’t imagine the government is going to be especially worried about finding this stuff” when there were bigger problems to hand, like the breakdown of society.

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