May 15, 2020 / 11:35 AM / 15 days ago

French lockdown hit drug trafficking and boosted prices

PARIS (Reuters) - The lockdown imposed in France to combat the coronavirus led to a sharp drop in drug trafficking and a huge spike in prices, officials said on Friday.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference there had been a drop of 30-40% in drug trafficking in France, while anti-drug trafficking official Stéphanie Cherbonnier said prices jumped by 30-60%.

“We have noted a massive increase in prices,” said Cherbonnier, who added drug traffickers had sought to get around the lockdown by using home delivery and drive-in services.

France imposed its lockdown on March 17 and joined other European states like Spain, Austria and Germany in tightening border controls. The lockdown is being lifted progressively since May 11.

The lockdown initially “stunned” drug traffickers who were stuck at home just like their customers. They had to look for alternative routes while distribution was also disrupted, Cherbonnier said.

Criminals used home delivery and drive-in services while also increasing indoor cannabis culture.

Illegal drug shortages led to territorial fights and increased violence.

Cannabis use is outlawed in France but the country has one of Europe’s highest consumption rates. Most cannabis resin that enters France comes from Morocco via Spain. Marijuana, or grass, is typically imported from the Netherlands.

The Interpol police organisation said last month that criminals were using food delivery services as a cover to transport drugs and other illegal goods during the coronavirus crisis, which has seen countries around the world go into lockdown.

As road traffic was picking up in France with the end of the lockdown, so was illegal drug trafficking, officials said.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Giles Elgood and Janet Lawrence

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