COVID-19 pandemic is upping the global demand for weed

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The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in long periods of isolation, social distancing mandates and disruption to lifestyles across the globe.

According to a new United Nations (U.N.) report, this has caused an increase in the worldwide demand for cannabis, with notable sale surges on the dark web. The U.N. also noted that cannabis remains the main drug that causes people to enter the criminal justice system.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently released its World Drug Report for 2020 and found that about 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, a 30 per cent increase from 2009.

But because COVID-19 has closed multiple borders and disrupted drug supply chains, the pandemic may lead to drug shortages on the streets. The concern is that this could cause dangerous implications, including impure drugs and price hikes.

“Vulnerable and marginalized groups, youth, women and the poor pay the price for the world drug problem,” noted UNODC executive director Ghada Waly. “The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope,” Waly added.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown also raised demand for cannabis, the report noted, with a particular rise in Europe. Due to a lack of “access to street dealers by end-users, [Covid-19] may have led to an increase in drug trafficking activities over the darknet and drug shipment by mail in some places,” it stated.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown also raised demand for cannabis, with a particular rise in Europe. / Photo: Getty Images / Photo: Getty Images

Approximately 192 million people consumed cannabis in 2018, making pot the most commonly used drug in the world today. Adult-use legalization in countries like Canada, Uruguay and parts of the U.S. resulted in rising consumption rates in those countries, the report noted. But legalization isn’t the only factor at play when it comes to an increase in weed consumption, as “the same trend was observed in other jurisdictions where non-medical use of cannabis was not legalized.”

In recent weeks, cannabis advocates have argued that legalization should be enveloped in larger conversations about policing and race currently unfolding in the U.S. That’s because cannabis criminality causes more people to enter the criminal justice system, which the U.N. report corroborates. Using data from 69 countries between 2014 to 2018, more than half of all drug law offence cases involved cannabis.

However, the report noted, cannabis seizures have declined steadily over the past decade, with legalization playing a significant factor.

According to the report, “Global seizures of cannabis herb fell to their lowest level in two decades in 2018 — a slump driven by declines in North America, where seizures have fallen by 84 per cent in the last 10 years… policies aimed at liberalizing cannabis markets have played a key role in the decline.”

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