Last weekend the Australian Federal Police (AFP) announced that they had seized the largest haul of ecstasy in history -“ almost 800 kilograms of MDMA. This was made up of three million pills and a substantial amount of MDMA powder. Apparently this originated from Poland and was found in a number of boxes stored in a large industrial oven. Claims were immediately made that this would make a significant impact on the Australian ecstasy market, particularly this close to the start of the Christmas/New Year party season.
So what is the story? Will this have an impact upon the market and what consequences, if any, will it have on the average ecstasy user?
First of all it is important to note that this is a totally unique situation. To give you some idea of just how big this haul is, during the previous financial year the AFP and the Australian Customs Service had one of their most successful years ever with ecstasy seizures amounting to almost 900 kilograms in total. So this seizure was almost as large as the total for the previous year. In reality, no-one knows what the impact will be as we have never seen anything like this before so authorities will be closely monitoring the markets over the coming weeks and months to see if it does make a difference.
However, few people who work in the alcohol and other drugs field believe that the seizure will have a major impact. The ecstasy market is large and there is no evidence to suggest that large seizures have ever made much of an impact upon the availability and price of the drug. In fact ecstasy is quite unique in that there has never really been a shortage, with users continuing to report that the drug is easily accessible across all jurisdictions. This is also reflected in the price of the drug -“ the price continues to drop, indicating a healthy supply.
There are suggestions that there may be flow-on effects, however. One of the things that we have seen after major cocaine seizures has been an artificial inflating of the price of the drug. Dealers take the opportunity to hold onto their drugs in the weeks after a major seizure and inform their customers that they have been difficult to come by and raise the price accordingly. This inflated price is maintained for a short period of time and the dealers make some extra money. Prices usually return to normal within a month or two. Whether this happens with ecstasy or not remains to be seen. We will be monitoring the situation over the next few weeks and feeding back the information to the wider community in an effort to reduce any harmful consequences that may occur.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?