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Illicit Cannabis Sales Soar in Europe Amid Lockdowns, Report Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: May 11, 2020   
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Cannabis consumers in the United Kingdom and Germany appear to have bought a lot more illicit cannabis than usual during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The report, which analysed transactions on the darknet, found that illicit cannabis sales increased by about 30 percent during the first quarter of 2020.

While it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions, the report heavily suggests that the lockdown measures across Europe have spurred consumers to stock up on their cannabis supplies.  

From London to Berlin

To source their results, the EMCDDA researchers analysed the activity on three darknet drug markets from 1 January to 31 March 2020.

Scouring through buyers’ feedback posts on forum threads, they totalled 50,475 sales across the sites Agartha, Versus, and Cannazon – the latter of which is a site dedicated to cannabis products.

From January to March, total drug sales increased by 25 percent, or just over 4,000 more sales reviews since January.

The vast majority of these sales took place in the UK (47 percent) and Germany (30 percent); France and the Netherlands made up just 6 percent and 4 percent of the market, respectively.

“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 reads.

According to data from Cannazon, the average cannabis product was 10 grams in weight and sold at a mean cost of €125 (approximately US$135). In total, it’s thought that 1.6 metric tonnes of cannabis was sold through Cannazon between January and March, which would represent about €4.3 million (US$4.6 million) in sales.

Yet, while all these sales were being made, the report found that the value of cannabis sold on Cannazon has actually fallen by just under 20 percent since January. This price drop, the authors speculate, could be due to more individual sales relative to bigger bulk sales. In other words, regular consumers may be buying for themselves rather than relying on a dealer (vendor) during social distancing restrictions.

“The number of smaller volume trades increased,” the report reads. “This suggests that cannabis consumers were either stocking-up or moving to online marketplaces to mitigate potential supply problems.”

This shift in supply could have serious implications for the future of Europe’s illicit market. If consumers get used to buying for themselves, they may never return to their regular vendors, the report speculates.

As the EMCDDA’s data was sourced prior to April 1, it’s difficult to say for certain whether this trend of personal cannabis sales has continued.


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