There are a few industries thriving during lockdown; you can probably guess what they are. Fitness gurus, baking kits, wine deliveries, sex toys, Netflix, Zoom… But did you think it would be boom time for the illegal drugs trade?
And by drug trade, I mean cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, largely. The more – shall we say – exotic options like acid are apparently less popular right now. But if you thought people might be worried about their health, and cutting back on stuff that’s bad for you, think again. People are taking drugs in lockdown. In abundance.
Not getting the true picture
A quick look at the generic headlines about the illicit drug trade during the pandemic, and you’d believe that crackdowns are happening, prices are rising, and supply is difficult. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, according to one dealer we spoke to. I’ll call him Mr Smith.
“Demand is through the roof. People are bored, locked down… When you can’t go to the pub or whatever, what else are you going to do?”
“Demand is through the roof,” he says. “People are bored, locked down, nothing to do. My supply chain is fine – there’s no issue with anything getting through. If anything, business has rocketed. When you can’t go to the pub or whatever, what else are you going to do?
“I’m having no trouble with my supply. I have to plan a bit more carefully, because I can’t meet up on the spur of the moment, so I have to think about my orders. But stuff is coming in from overseas just fine. I’ve no idea how, I don’t ask.”
Making lockdown fun
So everyone has their favourite poison. Some people are looking to relax, to while away the days like they used to back in time before responsibilities and jobs. Others are looking to have some hedonistic fun and let off steam. Many are going for both.
…come Friday night they shove the kids in bed and rack up a few lines or bosh a pill, turn up the music, neck some beers…
“People are buying cannabis to calm down during lockdown, and deal with feelings of claustrophobia or frustration or whatever. I get people buying green to try and stay calm because the other half or the kids are driving them mad. Women seem to be coping better – maybe it’s because they’re at less risk, they’re less afraid or stressed. They’re better at most things, to be fair.
“So I’ve got people interested in weed, for example, to try and chill the fuck out. But then come Friday night they shove the kids in bed and rack up a few lines or bosh a pill, turn up the music, neck some beers. I think it’s stopping a lot of people from going mad actually, having their own little parties at home.”
I’m immediately thinking about lung health, and meeting people, and the lack of social distancing – you probably are too. Surely this kind of activity is madness right now?
“Yeah, but what can I do? I’ve got another business, which is on its arse. I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids if I weren’t doing this and honestly, it’s booming. I’m glad people are taking drugs in lockdown!
“I’m really careful about the handover – I can’t do contactless payments, obviously. But I don’t get too close, I have very private spaces to meet up and I’m scrupulous about washing. I do my best, and so far, so good.”
The biggest demand is from older clients
Maybe it’s because they’re enjoying free time that they don’t normally get. Not having to go into the office each day means they can have a blaze and watch Netflix all afternoon. Pretend they’re 20 again
“You’d be surprised at the type of punters I’m seeing more of, actually. Average age is between 45 and 60-plus. Maybe they’re the ones with the cashola right now, I dunno. I’m not seeing many youngsters, that’s for sure. Maybe they’re all working, driving and stacking shelve. The oldies are rocking it right now anyway, and they’re great punters.
“Maybe also it’s because they’re enjoying free time that they don’t normally get, you know, if they’re furloughed or whatever. Not having to go into the office each day means they can have a blaze and watch Netflix all afternoon. People taking drugs in lockdown means they can pretend they’re 20 again.
“But across the board, all the stuff, demand is through the roof. Makes me laugh, the governments of the world trying to stop this trade. It’ll always be there, because there’s always demand.”
The terminally ill
It’s not just recreational though. Mr Smith has a clientele that also includes people who are terminally ill. They buy cannabis because it helps them with their pain, or the fear, or sense of wellbeing. And he has a working relationship with more than one local hospice where they don’t just tolerate him, they welcome him.
“I have a number of clients who are terminally ill… it’s something I can do to help, make their final days a bit better
“I have a number of clients who are terminally ill, and I charge them far less, the margin is a lot smaller. Because it’s something I can do that’s good. I feel like it’s something I can do to help, make their final days a bit better. It’s a dirty trade, I want to try and do something decent in the middle of it all.
“But actually by doing this, I’m technically a felon, I could be locked up with rapists and killers. How fucked is that? For selling something that helps dying people feel better?
“The nurses at the hospice call me The Happy Bunny, because after I’ve been there ten minutes and people have had a vape or whatever, suddenly they’re all feeling great. They’re sitting up and feeling well, feeling less pain, and chatting and laughing. It’s magical actually.
The nature of the business being what it is… sometimes I turn up to see a client and they’ve gone and died
“I like to stay and hang out there with them a bit, it’s nice. And the nurses are like, ‘we can throw all the drugs the NHS has got at them, but what you bring into this place makes them happy’.
“So I like to do my bit. I can’t go in there at the moment, obviously. I hope they’re alright. The nature of the business being what it is, sometimes I turn up to see a client (I refuse to call them patients) and they’re not there any more. They’ve gone and died. That always makes me sad.
“I don’t know how those nurses do that job. People dying on you all the time.”
As told to Silver Magazine, names withheld