The implications of the coronavirus pandemic for governance and law enforcement will be profound and, from the perspective of illicit drug markets, the global disruption caused by COVID-19 can be seen as both a crisis and an opportunity.

World drug markets have already weathered a number of historical market crises. In each of these situations, illicit drug organizations and their markets suffered significant short-term disruptions to demand or supply, or both. Also, in each of these situations, a majority of the affected organizations and markets adapted and evolved their business models to accommodate the new operating environments.

Today, many domestic drug markets are reasonably stable, embedded in their economic landscapes. They are significant components of regional and national gross domestic product and, in many places, a significant or sole livelihood source. Key factors that have shaped drug markets in the past, and continue to shape them today, are exploitation of opportunity amid crisis and rapid adaptation to environmental change.

COVID-19 will generate longer-term implications for drug-market dynamics, law-enforcement tactics and drug policy. This policy brief offers observations on the current and likely future drug market impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, with discussion of policy-response measures as we draw closer to the inevitable post-pandemic recovery period of stock taking and reflection.

Crisis and opportunity: Impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on illicit drug markets.

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Jason Eligh

Jason Eligh is a senior expert at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
He is an illicit drug market and policy analyst who has researched, developed and led technical cooperation and assistance initiatives addressing illicit drugs in African and Asian geographies.
His expertise focuses on understanding the contexts and characteristics influencing illicit drug use behaviours and the structural resilience of drug trade environments, particularly as these factors relate to the development and sustainability of harm.

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