Coronavirus Has Made Drugs Way More Expensive in New York

Since March, supply chain issues “due to the impact of novel coronavirus” have driven up prices of illegal drugs in New York, with law enforcement officials reporting that marijuana is 55% more expensive in the state.

Cocaine is 12% more expensive, and heroin 7% more costly, in the state, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration New York Division.  

How does this break down?

Coke’s per-kilo price now ranges from $31,000 to $34,000 — compared to $28,000 to $30,000 in February, a law enforcement source said. Heroin is now going for $51,000 to $56,000 per kilo, compared to $50,000 in February. Multiple reports have put current pot prices at $1,200 to $1,600 per pound, compared to $800 to $1,000 per pound in February, the source also said.

The DEA New York Division’s data on drug seizures is striking.

In March 2020, 1,054 kilos of coke were seized — compared to 2,450 in March 2019. With heroin, March 2020 seizures totaled 31 kilos, compared to 60 for the same time last year. There were 20 kilos of marijuana seized this March — compared to 251 kilos in March 2019. Two kilos of meth were seized in March 2020, compared to 11 in March 2019. Fentanyl seizures dropped to 27 kilos in March 2020 compared to 74 last March. (These stats are for New York.)

Illegal drug trafficking, “just like any other market or industry, has been directly affected, disrupted not only here in New York City, but nationally” said Ray Donovan, DEA New York Division Special Agent in Charge. “One of the main reasons is that production of precursor chemicals in China has slowed down tremendously.” 

Several chemicals required for the production of drugs in Mexico, for example, are harder to come by — driving up prices.

“We’ve seen that in numerous cases here, especially with regard to specific drugs like cocaine and heroin,” Donovan said. 

There are coronavirus-prompted problems with sourcing chemicals from China for completely legitimate purposes, too.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo said coronavirus test manufacturers have attributed a lack of supplies to them being sourced in China.  “When you go back to the manufacturer and say why don’t you distribute more reagents, they say one of two things. I can’t get more reagents because they come from China … We don’t make them in the United States. Or they say the federal government is telling me who to distribute to,” he said at a recent press conference.

There is also intel that Mexican cartels are “intentionally holding or stockpiling drugs to increase the price, certainly with methamphetamine,” he said.

Meanwhile, limiting non-essential travel at the U.S.-Mexico border has played a role limiting transportation. 

And then, there are potential street-level supply chain issues.

“Some information we’re getting is that drug dealers don’t want to meet up with people and potentially put their own lives at risk,” Donovan said. 

One dealer told FAQ they didn’t see pot’s dramatic increase, saying that while it might cost from $200 to $300 more per pound, it’s “definitely not 50%” — and that these “jumps come seasonally anyway.”

“The coke thing might be about right,” the person said. 

(The law enforcement source said the discrepancy with pot could be due to different strains having different price points.)

The overall takeaway?

“The demand is still there  — it’s just the supply is not meeting their demand,” Donovan said. 

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