Exploring impacts of COVID-19 on cannabis supply and demand in Australia

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has today released a paper revealing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply and demand of cannabis in Australia. Jointly written by AIC researchers Laura Doherty, Tom Sullivan and Alexandra Voce, the report outlines who is most likely to use cannabis during the pandemic and what effect the pandemic had on cannabis supply.

AIC Deputy Director Dr Rick Brown said the findings reveal first hand insights into why people use cannabis and why some individuals have increased their use since the pandemic began.

"This study has provided valuable understanding from people who have used cannabis in the past month to help uncover patterns and predictors of cannabis use around Australia. These findings help us to develop a fuller picture of cannabis use and the impacts on its users," said Dr Brown.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cannabis demand and supply in Australia draws on information gathered from police detainees as part of the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia program. Researchers found that people who admitted to using cannabis within the past month reported using the drug an average of 25 days per month, significantly more often than before the pandemic began.

Those experiencing changes in their employment, financial or living situation as a result of COVID-19 reported an increase in cannabis use. Individuals with changes to their mental health or who used drugs to cope with negative emotions were also more likely to increase cannabis use. While most users reported no changes in cannabis supply, there were increases in price and a decrease in supply in some specific locations around Australia.

The paper suggests that like many other illicit drugs, patterns of cannabis use have been altered by COVID-19 restrictions, but that cannabis supply appears to have been resistant to the impacts of the pandemic. While there was no change in the number of detainees reporting past-month cannabis use, their frequency of cannabis use was significantly greater than before the pandemic.

"These results are in line with the increases in cannabis consumption found in the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program results from June 2020 and show us how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing how people purchase and consume illicit drugs.

The AIC will continue to pursue areas of research to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have changed not only the illicit drug market, but also broader crime trends in Australia," said Dr Brown.

The report is available at https://doi.org/10.52922/sb78252

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