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The Need for Weed: Miami Dealers Adapt to Pandemic Conditions

It should come as no surprise that the unprecedented societal disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has exerted a ripple effect on drug consumption, from alcohol to marijuana and other mind-altering substances.

According to the Florida Department of Health, sales of legal weed jumped nearly 40 percent during the week in mid-March when schools and businesses began shutting down. That week’s sales of 2,274 pounds of marijuana flower remains the highest year-to-date, but when you take into account the increased levels of lockdown, the state's pot trade remains robust.

In observance of 420 Day, and with an eye toward gauging the state of South Florida’s not-legal-weed community, New Times made a few discreet inquiries. We wanted to know whether sales are up and also what, if any, measures local dealers are implementing in this era of social distancing.

Eric*, who’s 25 and has been exchanging cannabis for cash for the past five years, reports that the law of supply and demand is in full effect.

“Ironically, I’m making more money now than I regularly do because everybody is buying tree [i.e., flower],” he says. “But at the same time, it’s not as much as I actually could be making because of how expensive it is” to buy wholesale.

“Tree prices went up because there aren’t a lot of trucks and shipments coming down. We either get it from Colorado or California, but because of [the virus], the trucks that ship it down have been backed up,” he explains, estimating that the asking price has risen about 20 percent.

Eric says some of his regulars have asked whether he wears gloves while touching their cannabis, and some have been hesitant to go to his house for pickup. He doesn’t deliver, and he doesn’t think gloves are necessary. “I had one customer be like, ‘Are you moving tree with gloves?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m not.’ Me touching it with gloves wouldn’t do anything because I don’t know if the guy I got it from was wearing gloves either.”

New Times also heard from Ian*, who's 23 and sells more potent substances, including Xanax, Percocet, Adderall, and cocaine. He says that sales have been “crazy” since the coronavirus descended and that the prices on his end have seen a notable jolt in recent weeks.

“Drugs like Percs and Xans you have to get from the pharmacy — if it’s not coming from there, then they’re fake and cut with cheaper drugs like fentanyl,” he says. “These drugs are very limited, and the prices on them have jumped. It’s not easy to see a doctor right now, and certain dealers only have so many refills they can pick up.”

Melinda*, age 22, says she bakes and sells artisanal edibles. She says that before the pandemic, she offered delivery and welcomed her clients into her home for pickup. She no longer accepts payment in cash or offers delivery, and she has instituted a system for curbside pickup. “I don’t want to put my drivers’ health at risk no matter what,” she says. “But customers have also been more hesitant in actually grabbing a bag from me, so I’ve set up a new protocol on how to pick up for the time being. People like to know that you’re aware of the situation. And I’ve made sure to alert all of my clients that I’ve been giving great importance to sanitize myself and my workspaces, as I always do,” she adds.

Because Melinda needs to buy ingredients other than the weed, her business has been buffeted by some of the same mundane grocery shortages that have affected us all.

“I definitely have had quite the struggle and big headaches from not being able to find the ingredients I need,” right down to staples like milk and paper towels, she says.

She has also had to deal with the vicissitudes of Amazon delivery. Some of her most popular items are custom cakes, which she personalizes with themed decorations, fancy icings, food coloring, and festive packaging. Some of the delays have been extraordinary, with packages taking up to a month to arrive when they usually come in a couple of days.

Eric, too, says he has had to adapt to the unpredictability: He’s more apt to purchase in quantity when he’s able to nab a reasonable price. He says doing so helps guarantee he’ll have merchandise on hand when his clients want it.

“Because the prices move every week, I try to buy a lot when I get a good price in advance,” he says. “I’m a personal user too, so it’s like, 'Shit, I’m not about to be without tree.'”

*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

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