Israel Police Arrest 43 Alleged Dealers on Marijuana-trading App

The arrests deflate Telegrass operators’ claim that they protect dealers, customers through the encrypted use of the app

Illustration: A man grinds a cannabis flower.
Olivier Fitoussi

Police arrested 43 alleged drug dealers who sold marijuana via the Telegrass app Wednesday morning, thanks to help from an undercover agent.

In the past, Telegrass operators had boasted that their use of the app, which is encrypted, protected both dealers and customers.

The suspects, all residents of the coastal plain, were slated to be brought for bail hearings later in the day. Police said additional arrests are expected.

Police monitored the dealers from the moment they ordered the marijuana to the moment they handed it over to customers. During Wednesday’s raid, they confiscated 200,000 shekels ($57,000), along with cars used by the dealers.

To prevent undercover cops from entering the Telegrass system, both dealers and customers must submit to a verification process. The app’s founder, Dov Silber, told Haaretz in the past that dealers must provide system managers with a photo of their identity card plus video footage of themselves alongside commercial quantities of marijuana. The managers themselves must detail their experience with either growing or selling the drug.

The undercover agent has been active for nine months, meaning since before the system’s full database of dealers was reportedly leaked to the web. Those reports said the database contained about 3,500 names.

Police said in a statement that the agent circumvented “various mechanisms which were supposed to provide secrecy and anonymity.”