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Breaking Lockdown to Buy Cannabis

Breaking Lockdown to Buy Cannabis

April 1, 2020

Social Sciences & Humanities

The Jerusalem Post — In many countries in lockdown around the world, the authorities are reporting a number of cases of people breaking the regulations to contain the outbreak to buy cannabis.

Dr. Maya Lavie-Ajayi

As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies in the U.S., with the country’s death tally of 3,400 surpassing that of China, and increasingly restrictive measures being implemented, the marijuana industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom.

According to Politico, almost all of the 33 states where the use of the substance has been legalized for medical or recreational purposes have classified marijuana-related business as essential, thereby allowing them to remain operational.

The report added that some states are witnessing a surge in sales up to 20%, while many companies are hiring extra workers to meet the demand, such as Bay Area-based Harborside, which saw an increment of 45% in its delivery requests and expanded its staff by 10 people.

Harborside cannabis dispensary in Oakland, CA

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Dr. Maya Lavie-Ajayi, of BGU’s Charlotte B. and Jack J. Spitzer Department of Social Work and director of its Israeli Center for Qualitative Research of People and Societies, says in the past decade Israel has seen a sharp increase in the use of both medical and recreational cannabis, with the latter still illegal although decriminalized.

“Ten years ago, about 2,000 people had a license to use medical cannabis in Israel. Today, there are almost 30,000,” Lavie-Ajayi said. “Moreover, in 2017 a study conducted by the Anti-Drug Authority found that 27% of the country’s adult population declared that they had used marijuana in the previous year. In 2009, it was 8.9%.”

She highlighted that when it comes to an issue like cannabis, people’s answers need to be taken with a grain of salt, since there is a tendency of not disclosing the adoption of an illegal behavior, but that despite this, the data are still relevant to prove the significant increase both in use and in normalization.

“The normalization of the use of cannabis is dependent on many factors, from the political discourse, with political parties including it in their agendas, to the fact that the substance has become more accessible with the establishment of distribution networks such as Telegrass or dedicated WhatsApp groups,” she added.

As for what is happening now with Israel in lockdown, some reports indicate a growing trend – for example, earlier this month Walla stated that some Telegram groups devoted to selling cannabis showed an increase of orders up to 600% – but comprehensive data are unavailable.

“The impression is that the same way a lot of people rushed to the supermarkets because they were afraid of what was going to happen, a lot of people hurried to buy marijuana,” Lavie-Ajayi told the Post. “I think it’s interesting that in certain places, such as the Netherlands and in some states in the U.S., they classified cannabis as essential and they kept the stores open.”

The researcher said that even though most studies focus on the influence that cannabis has to relieve physical pain, there are also some which highlight how it has a positive impact on people’s psychological well being, including in fighting anxiety and stress, as well as sleeping problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I believe that these are all issues that are relevant now,” she pointed out.

Lavie-Ajayi also warned to be cautious with news related to cannabis.

“A rumor has been circulating about cannabis being able to help COVID-19 patients, which has no scientific basis and can be very dangerous,” she said. “Cannabis has become a sort of magical medicine that can help with every illness, so I was not surprised to hear it. However, it is important to be very careful.”

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