The COVID-19 crisis has affected human life in many ways.
Meanwhile, online drug and cryptocurrency markets have responded differently to the pandemic.
Experts from several international agencies have moved investigate the dynamics of underground markets amid the pandemic in order to advise policy and operational frameworks.
Consequently, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has released a report, which shows that cannabis users have decided to stock up on drug supplies via the dark web, fearing shortages that may arise due to the raging pandemic.
Data Collected from Three Darknet Markets
The European drug agency conducted an analysis of review on three dark web marketplaces (Agartha, Cannazon and Versus) from January to March 2020 with the purpose of studying the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on darknet drug markets.
The findings showed that social distancing and lockdown restrictions influenced an increase in dark web market activity by 25% in the study period.
According to the report published by the European drug agency, a majority of drug buyers demanded cannabis, while the demand for commonly used drugs in social events (such as ecstasy and MDMA) dropped as people obeyed the international call to stay home.
The agency inferred that a rise in cannabis buyer activity on the dark web suggests that cannabis users have chosen to stock up on the drug as the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic thickens. The cannabis market has anticipated the impending market disruptions that may arise in the near future due to lockdown restrictions.
According to data collected by the EMCDDA, dark web market Cannazon, a site that has specialized in cannabis, recorded sales of about €4.3 million during the study period – a figure that reflected a volume of 1.6 metric tonnes worth of drugs.
What Key Points Should Be Taken from the Report?
According to the EMCDDA report, the data collected presented related-but-competing premises concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
On one hand, the host of persons that purchased cannabis with the intention of reselling the drugs seemed to reduce their activities, indicating that they anticipated logistical bottlenecks owing to the prevailing social distancing guidelines.
In the same breath, seasoned buyers or new customers who demand cannabis for personal consumption have increased their activities on the darknet markets. Thus, the observations above reflect the discrepancy arising between the spike in sales and a drop in dark web drug revenues.
Second, the prices of cannabis has registered a marked decrease in the context of large volume orders. However, the prices seemed to have remained steady in the case of mid and low volumes. This event is still a reflection of the aforementioned discrepancies that have characterized the state of darknet drug commerce amid the coronavirus crisis.
Notably, the report highlighted the growth of market referrals to encrypted messenger services. This observation presents a unique challenge that will potentially affect the efficiency of national and global dark web policing efforts.
In terms of market dynamics, the study discovered a significant decline in the demand for substances used at high-density social events. The drug sales showed a consistency in terms of origin as most of the drugs appeared to come from the United Kingdom and Germany.
Further, there was an increased incidence in the number of drug-related discussions on forums focused on dark web marketplaces during the entire period of the study. Most vendors seemed to sell the idea of “business as usual” as far as their trade is concerned. This was followed by the introduction of incentives and discounts to boost drug sales.
Otherwise, on the other hand, a number of vendors seemed to admit that they had taken a hit from the pandemic, but reassured their customers of their measures aimed at streamlining the process of drug shipments.