Berlin’s drug dealers adapt to life under coronavirus lockdown

From the appropriate social distance, Dave offers joyful advice to a customer who is filling up with ketamine as the foreclosure of the German capital, Berlin, begins to bite. “When you think a little more would be good, go ahead and go make another bump!” he said, indifferent to the nearby police. “Everything that feels good. Take it easy. “


Around the world, it is not just legal businesses that are being transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. From “Corona Specials” to Personalized Delivery Services, Drug Dealers Strive To Drive Business, Suppliers Struggle To Find New Routes As Transportation Closes And Promoters Flout Group Bans by organizing underground raves.

In Berlin, a city famous for its hedonistic nightlife and techno clubs like Berghain, dealers such as Dave adapt to serve the large number of clubbers who find themselves trapped at home with little to do but to get high on . Social distancing and restrictions on movement also boosted storage, with the price of some drugs rising sharply.

“People are panicking, not just about toilet paper,” said Lucy, who sells cannabis to private customers. “Right now, I sell 500 grams a day – before I normally sold around 100 grams.” Like all the dealers mentioned in this article, she asked to be identified by her street name.

Police patrol in Görlitzer Park, where dealers continue their transactions despite the coronavirus lockout © David Gannon / AFP

Jack, another private dealer, has just received his biggest single order of € 1,500. Preferences have not changed, he said – ketamine, an anesthetic sold on the street for its trance-inducing effects, and speed are still its best sellers. Many of his orders have doubled or even tripled.

Dealers, however, see problems ahead. Lucy’s supply chain across Spain, hit hard by the pandemic, has been completely shut down.

Experts on illegal trade say it is inevitable that the black market will suffer a temporary blow. But drug traffickers have an advantage over legitimate businesses: “They’re used to seeing distortions in supply chains caused by law enforcement, for example, or perhaps a particular airport detecting goods and freight, and needing to adapt, ”said Jason Eligh, a senior expert at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.

As restrictions on air travel are tightened, dealers say they are considering more routes by land and sea, hiding their product amidst legally traded goods. A Lebanese hashish merchant said he expected his partners to try to get the resin into medical supplies. “They will find a way – they always do it,” he said.

In Berlin’s Görlitzer Park, home to a notorious drug market, the trade in illicit substances continues despite the foreclosure. On a recent visit to the Financial Times, police could be seen ransacking pickup trucks on one side of the park, while at the other end, crowds of dealerships – many of whom wore masks and gloves – snuck their goods as usual.

“We, too, are afraid, man, for ourselves and our families. And we are concerned about borders – prices will go up, ”said a dealer. “But for you – I will give you a special price.”

Experts say talking about rising prices should be taken with a pinch of salt – it takes months for supply effects to filter street-level thinking, and some traffickers simply exploit the crisis to push up the prices. Berlin dealers who once sold cannabis for € 10 a gram can now charge € 15-30.

Either way, traffic analysts expect the coronavirus crisis to have a lasting impact on the drug trade, from the development of new routes and partnerships to the potential rise of organizations that exploit the better the crisis.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, an illegal trade expert at the Brookings Institution, said she expects a push towards automated transportation – just as it can be for legal businesses.

“Amazon and others will deliver groceries via a drone to your door, and similarly, we will reach a time when drug traffickers will deliver your daily, weekly or monthly hit via a drone to your window sill “, she said.

Jack, the reseller, predicted a growing use of the Internet’s “dark web” – where drugs can be displayed for delivery to anonymous addresses.

In the short term, the disruption caused by the virus could be fatal. Europol has warned that increased competition could spark violence as groups compete for access to transportation and the supplies needed to make drugs such as the synthetic opioid Fentanyl, which requires “precursor” chemicals d ‘India or China which are weak.

The adaptations have a more cuddly face in Berlin. On the private channels of WhatsApp and Telegram, dealers assure their customers that their goods have been packed with latex gloves. A dealer urged buyers to think about the health of their couriers: “Make everyone happy – hand disinfection!” Stay healthy and take care of yourself. “

Berghain is one of the most famous clubs in Berlin, a city famous for its hedonistic nightlife © DPA / PA Images

Lucy’s clients are now requesting that their medications be delivered to their homes to maintain quarantine. Some customers refuse to buy from its Asian couriers, because of racist beliefs, they are more likely to carry the virus. “People are going a little crazy,” she said.

There is an element of class on how the coronavirus will affect drug use. Eligh, of the Global Initiative, said that if wealthier clients can use it at home, poorer addicts can continue to congregate as they search for places to take their medication, and are more likely to ‘be overlooked by health initiatives. “You will see the poorest in society far more affected than the upper middle class and the wealthy,” he said.

Editor’s note

Berlin’s drug dealers adapt to life under coronavirus lockdown 3

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While some are overlooked, others deliberately go off the grid. For savvy Berliners, an underground scene continues to rage, filled with full bars, lighting and DJ sets. The raves take place in distant warehouses and apartments, say the dealers, with events coordinated via secret discussion groups that alert people of the time and place of the previous night. Prepaid tickets can cost up to € 100 each and special watchmen are hired to monitor the police.

“DJs, promoters: they all want to make money during this time,” said Dave. “There was a big warehouse party last night – I have a few friends who left and I haven’t heard from them yet. They’re probably still going.”

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