Mauritius: Cannabis prices go through the roof
In Mauritius, significant law enforcement efforts have targeted cannabis cultivation and consumption. Cannabis was principally grown on the slopes of the mountains surrounding Chamarel in the south-west of the island, often in the middle of sugar cane fields in an effort to disguise the crop. However, such efforts had limited success against the Anti-Drug and Smuggling Unit (ADSU), which used helicopters to spot and spray crops. These operations, alongside more traditional uprooting techniques, have destroyed a significant proportion of domestic cultivation.
This has had two key impacts. Firstly, it has driven up the price of cannabis, which increased almost fourfold between 2015 and 2020, from €15 to €57 (MUR 800– MUR 2 675), transforming cannabis into a ‘luxury item’. Stakeholders consistently identified this as a key driver of surging synthetic cannabinoid use, as this drug is far more affordable. As one PWUD (person who uses drugs) in Mauritius explained: ‘Most pot smokers shifted to synthetic drugs because cannabis is becoming a luxury. Being well paid, I can afford it, else I would have stopped. Can you imagine that the price of cannabis is almost as high as heroin?’Secondly, plummeting cultivation in Mauritius has boosted imports from Madagascar, and more recently Réunion, to feed demand. The difference in price between the points of origin and sale makes this an extremely profitable venture for exporters: street-level cannabis prices in Mauritius are over 2 000% higher than those in Madagascar, even at the lower range of prices cited in Mauritius.Reunion is a key cannabis smuggling hubRéunion’s exports of cannabis to Mauritius is the sole instance of the island operating as drugs exporter, and arguably its key engagement in the inter-island drugs market. The June 2019 interception of 142 kilograms of cannabis near a small port on the eastern coast of the island, by far the largest seizure, highlighted the scale of exports. In other respects, Réunion’s small drugs market is more closely tied to mainland France. Although with close cultural ties to the other Creole islands, Réunion is distant from its neighbours both in geography (226 kilometres away from Mauritius, the closest island) and trading links. Instead, Réunion is economically and politically linked with France. Its economy, both licit and illicit, reflects this.
Cannabis is packed into sacks like these, attached to wooden poles to enable it to be transported on foot from the Andriry region, near Betroka, primarily to Antananarivo. © Riana Raymonde Randrianarisoa