Ireland's Drug Users Switching From Cocaine to Cannabis Amid COVID-19 Crisis
The coronavirus quarantine has destroyed the market for illegal drugs in Ireland, but health officials have imported medical cannabis from The Netherlands to ensure that patients do not run out of medicine.
Published on April 7, 2020

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is not only forcing legal businesses to adapt to global quarantine measures, it's also changing how the illegal drug market does business. Drug dealers in the UK and Europe have seen the demand for cocaine and other party drugs dry up, as customers switch to drugs like weed and Xanax to help them chill out. 

Ireland’s cocaine trade has ground to a halt over the past two weeks, according to a new report by As recently as February, cocaine sales were thriving, and one Irish county found itself neck-deep in a “blizzard” of extremely pure coke. And in March, when the first quarantine measures were announced, coke dealers saw an initial rush of panic buying.

But now that bars are closed and parties are prohibited, drug dealers have seen the demand for cocaine dry up. Some dealers have completely run out of product after last month's panic buying, while others are sitting on large stashes they can't sell. 

Ireland's illegal drug trade is still going strong, though. As the demand for party drugs has dwindled, dealers have seen increased demand for cannabis, Xanax, and other drugs that can help take the edge off of widespread anxieties.

“Cocaine is on its knees now,” an anonymous source told “It’s either not coming in or there is no demand for it as everyone isn’t out on a Saturday night. What is happening... is that the demand for cannabis has increased significantly.”

Of course, adult-use cannabis remains illegal all throughout the United Kingdom, but Ireland is at least taking steps to ensure that supplies of medical marijuana will not be exhausted. Although the UK Home Office legalized medical marijuana back in 2018, health officials have made little effort to make this medicine widely available. The country's national health service only offers a few cannabis-based medicines for limited use, forcing most medical cannabis users to import their medicine or buy it overseas, which is beyond costly. 

Many Irish medical cannabis users make regular trips to The Netherlands to fill their prescriptions, but the pandemic is making international travel impossible. To ensure that patients have access to their medicine, Ireland's Department of Health will import a supply of medical cannabis products from The Netherlands and then distribute them to patients.

“I am aware that the limited number of patients who avail of a ministerial license for medicinal cannabis products issued under section 14 of the Misuse of Drugs Acts have been encountering difficulties with access owing to travel restrictions and people’s need to self-isolate,” said Minister for Health Simon Harris, according to The Irish Times.

“I am very glad we have been able to make arrangements to have an emergency supply of their products collected for them in Holland, where the products are supplied, and to have the products delivered to the patients in Ireland.”

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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