Many Europeans stockpiled illicit cannabis as COVID-19 set in, report suggests

Regular cannabis users in Europe might have stocked up on illegal products as the COVID-19 pandemic started to sweep over the continent earlier this year, according to a new analysis of darknet transactions.

“This is observed to some extent in the data, where an increase in online trade via darknet markets, driven largely by cannabis products, can be observed in February and March,” according to the report, which was authored by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The report paints the clearest picture yet of Europe’s unregulated cannabis market in February and March – when the coronavirus started to take hold – though its authors warn that conclusions “are tentative and should be interpreted with caution.”

Higher pandemic-related cannabis sales in North America’s regulated markets have been well documented.

The report analyzed three relatively large darknet markets.

Cannazon, a market devoted to cannabis products, was one of them.

Cannazon sales reached approximately 4.3 million euros ($4.6 million) in February and March, with volume of 1.6 tons (3,200 pounds).

The number of transactions involving illicit cannabis increased by about 30% during the first quarter of 2020.

However, the analysis found that the value of those sales fell 20%.

The apparent contradiction might be explained by:

  • A reduction in those buying cannabis for wholesale, anticipating that resale could be more difficult because of social-distancing and movement restrictions.
  • Cannabis consumers could have been either stockpiling or moving to online marketplaces.

In addition to Cannazon, the report analyzed sales in the Agartha and Versus markets, chosen for three reasons: size, relevance in Europe and “accessible structure and useable review data.”

The report cites data available from Cannazon to show:

  • The most common weight category of cannabis product sold was 10 grams.
  • The mean price was 125 euros.
  • The most common weight sold in the United Kingdom and Germany was 28 grams (1 ounce) and 10 grams, respectively. Corresponding mean prices were 196 euros and 136 euros, respectively.

The United Kingdom and Germany accounted for “just under 80% of drug sales with registered reviews” analyzed by the researchers.

Commercial production of recreational cannabis continues to be illegal across Europe, though regulated medical channels are taking shape.

Luxembourg seems to be the most likely candidate to legalize a recreational framework first.

Other countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland are working to implement pilot projects.

However, 2019 was a largely uneventful year for recreational legalization in Europe, according to Marijuana Business Daily’s updated report “Medical Cannabis in Europe: The Markets & Opportunities.” The free report, released this week, is available for download here.

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.