According to the latest data, consuming cannabis in Venezuela has become a nearly impossible task. Between the illegality of the business, the economic crisis, the fuel crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, the price of cannabis in the Latin American country rose 1000%, from 0.6$ to almost 7$. This has crushed the business that was already walking on a thin line before the crisis.
The coronavirus pandemic altered the behavior of many industries around the world, whether legal or not. In Caracas, Venezuela, that is also the case. As shown in a report, the price of cannabis increased by up to 1,000 percent.
Cannabis, a burden of being illegal in Venezuela, is undergoing a similar distortion to legitimate economic activities. Since the quarantine decree went into effect on March 16th, active cannabis consumers have been facing shortages and rising prices that are beyond the means of many regular smokers.
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The Coronavirus and the economic crisis, a perfect storm for the rise of Venezuela’s cannabis prices
“Before the quarantine began you could get a gram for a dollar. Now for a gram, they take away up to $5 and it’s likely to keep going up,” explained Jesus, a caraqueño who has not been able to maintain his personal consumption on a regular basis because he no longer afforded to buy cannabis.
More than a month after the quarantine, cannabis prices on the Venezuelan streets have risen between 700 and 1,000 percent.
It’s a unique combination: there is a demand, perhaps more so in view of the confinement at home, the anxiety, the need to calm nerves. In addition, two factors are threatening the circulation of cannabis: the closing of the borders and the lack – or increase in price – of gasoline to move it through streets and highways full of checkpoints, wherein many places one can only circulate with a pass.
In the country’s capital, there are police and military checkpoints at the entrances and exits of some municipalities. There are also checkpoints on the motorway. The risk for the seller is higher. In addition, if there is no gasoline, operating becomes much more difficult. The little cannabis that does arrive is controlled by the central government through the military. And a domestic black market has flourished in which the liter of gasoline moves over $2.
Venezuela and Colombia cannabis relationship
The cannabis consumed in Venezuela comes from Colombia: that is where cannabis is planted, harvested, and packed for further distribution and sale.
According to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), in 2018 it was estimated that Colombia had produced about 44.5 tons and by 2019 this body had reduced losses to 1.92 tons.
In August 2019, the Colombian police had seized a shipment of 2.1 tons of genetically modified cannabis in the Tolima region, destined for Venezuela.
The genetically modified cannabis, which is currently scarce, is consumed in Venezuela and according to a press report, the epicenter of its production is Cali, specifically in the Norte del Valle region, birthplace of the now-dissolved Cali Cartel.
To bring the drugs to Venezuela, the traffickers use the illegal border crossings and from there they transport the drugs to different points throughout the country, something very difficult to do now.
The illegality of the cannabis business in Venezuela
Jesus works as a call center operator in Caracas and has been smoking cannabis regularly for the past two years. Like many people around the world, the economic crisis resulting from the coronavirus has left him unemployed while things return to normal.
Under normal conditions, Jesus bought an average of 10 to 20 grams a month.
“In these times I have had to reduce my consumption a lot and learn to manage daily quantities better because when it is over I don’t know when I could buy again. The high cost is an obstacle that can be classified if you regulate consumption. However, in order to purchase cannabis, I have had to ask for favors to acquaintances who have a car and gasoline to bring it to me.”
Pablo is a student of social communication in Caracas and has been smoking cannabis regularly for about eight years. Before the quarantine, a gram of cannabis was about $0.6, a lower than average price, which could be bought in a larger amount in a group with other consumers.”Now every gram comes to me at $3.5 if we can get the amount needed. If I have to buy retail, the price can be up to $5 or $7 per unit, specifically from the seller.”
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First published in La Marihuana, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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