You eat organic kale and quinoa. You bought a conflict-free diamond. You sip your free trade coffee. But what about your cocaine? Well according to James Martin, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Macquarie University, you can now buy your hard drugs in as ethical a way as you so choose. In Martin’s book, Drugs on the Dark Net, he details how the post-Silk Road drug selling business has shifted to become more and more customer-centric. Customer service, product and seller reviews, and dispute resolution are all now part of the online drug buying process. Tormarket and its illicit drug sellers have had to take a page out of Amazon’s playbook just to stay competitive. It has also led to the rise of “ethically-sourced” drugs.
These listings read like something off the back of a Starbucks cup –
We are a team of libertarian cocaine dealers. We never buy coke from cartels! We never buy coke from police! We help farmers from Peru, Bolivia and some chemistry students in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. We do fair trade!
– Excerpt from seller page – Evolution, accessed December 28, 2013
This is the best opium you will try, by purchasing this you are supporting local farmers in the hills of Guatemala and you are not financing violent drug cartels.
– Excerpt from seller page – Evolution, accessed March 28, 2014
The reasons behind this surprising twist in the drugs marketplace come down to the changing face of competition. Where local street-corner dealers can use violence and intimidation to score new turf and therefore customers, the decentralized online marketplaces have no turf. Killing a fellow dealer in NYC would do nothing to prevent someone in Kentucky from setting up an account and selling his drugs. So these sellers have been forced to compete in more “legitimate” ways. Customer feedback and five star ratings play a huge role here. As do refund policies (!) and quality control. Welcome to the world of Drugs 2.0
You can check out this in-depth piece on so-called Fair Trade drugs from Drugs on the Dark Net. It’s a fascinating look inside a corner of the internet most don’t venture into to, and the ways it is changing. The full piece is well worth a read. And if reading isn’t your thing, maybe conflict-free opium is…