Quarantine culture, anxiety, social distancing, and lack of structure in day-to-day life has left people clamoring for ways to pass the time and cope with the “new normal” the COVID-19 pandemic has created.
For some, marijuana has been an escape.
Legal marijuana sales in states such as California, Washington, and Michigan skyrocketed just prior to the implementation of nationwide social distancing restrictions in March.
As social distancing came into play, New York’s neighbor to the east, Massachusetts, limited its 42 recreational marijuana dispensaries to individuals with medical cards as part of its public health guidance.
But that’s done little to deter Massachusetts smokers like Boston-area college student Thanasi Tsandilas from tapping personal sources to re-up his stash.
“Talking to my direct drug dealer, he said he’s been a lot busier than he was in February, just because kids aren’t as inclined to go to the dispensaries these days,” Tsandilas said. “One, they can’t leave the house.
“Two, they don’t really want to be going outside that much anyways, or to public areas like a dispensary where there’s a lot of person-to-person interaction.”
Supply and Demand
The pandemic’s disruption to spring classes forced Syracuse University students to leave town en mass for home in March while others opted to stay in their school year rentals. This has played into local underground market dynamics.
“Honestly, business has been better than usual for me,” said a 19-year-old SU student who deals drugs in and around Syracuse. “Since so many people have been quarantined and are so lonely and have been buying items in bulk in general.
“Weed happens to be one of them because people are bored out of their minds.”
His regular customers have been reaching out, but now they tend to re-up faster. People who would normally wait a week are in contact almost daily, he says, because they don’t have places to be.
“What are we going to go do? Nothing.” he said. “We might as well go through a park and smoke weed.”
Just before social distancing restrictions were mandated, the Syracuse dealer said he stocked up on product from a friend who brings dispensary grade weed from Canada to central New York. He tried to estimate the potential demand for pot as his customer base is both local residents and SU students – many of whom headed home to finish the spring semester there.
As people have settled into long-term quarantining, business is still not operating as usual for everyone.
“I’ve heard from people who sell that they’ve sometimes had trouble trying to sell the bulk amount they have,” said one SU senior staying in Syracuse who asked to remain anonymous. “They didn’t prepare for the university to suspend classes.”
He says that the change in routine hasn’t only affected dealers, but also how easy access is to their customers. “Purchasing has definitely become a little more difficult. I bought a lot in one purchase prior to the start of the quarantine before it got too bad.”