Drug dealers, users find new market in social media

Social media has changed the way we communicate with friends and family.

It is also changing the way people buy and sell illegal drugs.

Channel 2's Tom Regan learned how important it is to be careful about what you post on social media.

Police tell Regan they often see people post pictures of illegal drugs and guns on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.

They say drug dealers think it is safer because the messages disappear on Snapchat, or are not as easily accessible as a text message on a cell phone.

Video of a young woman twerking wearing a pro-cannabis shirt and posing for pictures with of bags full of marijuana and a bong ended up on social media.

We blurred her face to protect her identity, but it is something young adults tell us they see all the time.

“Well, it’s usually on Snapchat, lots of mostly just smoking weed and stuff out of bongs or joints what have you," social media user Carly Jones, a millennial, said.

Another social media millennial said he mostly sees references to marijuana.

“I don’t see other things,” Anthony Prince said.

Prince said he sees the posts on both Instagram and Facebook.

The pictures of marijuana and stacks of cash on Facebook and Instagram got the attention of Commander Phil Price with the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad nearly 4 years ago.

“They were posting pictures all over social media of themselves and their marijuana and their cash and we actually used that. We didn’t have to have an informant or anything to do that search warrant,” Price said.

Officers charged the young woman and her boyfriend with misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Court records show both of them were sentenced to one year of probation.


Price said social media plays a role in a lot of their drug cases.

"For us on the street level, it's probably 50 to 60 percent of the cases involve some type of social media contact," Price said.

Price said it is not surprising, given the attention-seeking nature of social media.

“We’re going to see a lot of ‘look at me, I’ve got this much dope or this much cash’ or ‘I’ve got my new gun,’” Price said.

It is not just small amounts of drugs being posted on Facebook.

Chicago police busted a secret Facebook group selling drugs, including cocaine and LSD, along with guns, in November 2017.

They arrested 50 people, including a teacher at this elementary school.

"Where there is a demand, there will always be a supplier. We're working hard to reduce that demand and eliminate that supply," Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

Chicago police said Facebook has not been very helpful shutting down secret groups selling drugs and guns.

"Facebook has a responsibility to the people they serve to ensure these types of things don't go on,” Johnson said.

Regan did a quick search on Facebook and found Xanax and Oxycodone pills for sale illegally.

A Facebook spokesperson told us these posts violate their community standards.

They encourage users to report illegal drug sales and work to remove them quickly.

Facebook says it is doubling its security team to 2,000 in the next year to address the issue.

The bottom line: People need to be careful what they post on social media, because police and potential employers could be watching.

“That is a little surprising, that people are so open about it, because like you just said, they get out of it, they start a family, they have a career, then everything is out there,” Jones said. “It’s all online, so you can always find it and trace it back.”

Price said his agency sees the bigger drug deals in Atlanta being arranged over the phone or face-to-face.

However, on the street, where it is all about volume and small amounts of drugs, there is a lot of social media use.