Posted by: Allen Hoffmann, JD
July 9, 2015
As a few of my sporadic Tweets (@akahoffmannjd) may indicate, I make no secret that I have ties to Australia. In fact, I’ve seen quite a few changes to the Australian drug landscape over the years. I was there in the 90s when the South Australian government’s approach to decriminalizing cannabis saw Adelaide become the epicenter of clandestine grow houses, and effectively the source of hydroponic weed sold by the large, national, organized syndicates for the whole country, all thanks to the whopping $150 expiation notice a grower could expect for having 10 hydroponic plants in one house. The types of people getting in on the action at that time would astonish you; as anyone with knowledge regarding cannabis cultivation can tell you, the risk of receiving a $150 ticket is more than offset by the payday flowing from 10 hydroponically cultivated plants, and by 2001, the laws had changed. I was there in the early to mid 2000s when the ‘gang wars’ down in Melbourne were still rolling, and the pills being offered as ‘ecstacy’ could range from being nasty mixes of amphetamine-like substances, one of which killed a former drug squad cop through to super-potent doses of MDMA stamped with initials of a slain underworld figure which commemorated that party’s memory.
Finally, I was there in the late 2000s when Europe realized that the open slather situation as regards Methcathinone may have required some kind of response, which had also allowed vast quantities of it to hit Australian streets unchecked by the Customs services, being snorted by everyone from my friends’ teenage, high school student kids, through to well to do bankers and the IT crowd – I happened to attend a birthday party at an IT specialist’s home where the whole dining room table was covered in the stuff.
Cut forward a couple of years, and its worldwide news that one of the original SR’s mods was extradited from Australia to face charges in New York where he was sentenced to time served, and you’ve got another Australian guy working in Public Relations and as an Admin for Evo doing interviews with Forbes. So, why is it that Australians seem to be getting so involved in the DNMs? What’s incubating a situation where Aussies seem so involved with drugs in the first place, anyway?
When it came to the importation of drugs in Australia in the recent past which couldn’t be imported via the grey market (such as MCAT), or grown (cannabis) or manufactured locally, the overwhelming majority of the marketplace was controlled by organized crime, managing illicit exports one way or another. Friends mailing personal use quantities of drugs to their Antipodean associates wasn’t unheard of, and mid-tier syndicates would try their luck at getting drugs for resale in through the cargo stream via a scattergun approach on and off, but the gap between the amateurs and the professionals was clearly marked out. These days, however, I’d hazard a guess and say that the lower and mid range, making up personal users, and people who intend to resell in the mid range, either in person or via a DNM, are gaining some serious ground in terms of the value of the drug transactions being made. I don’t base that guess on some kind of strange gut feeling; rather, the Australian Customs and Border Protection service, has publicly stated that methyamphetamine, for example, has been increasingly detected at import for 10 years, and has seen a notable increase in detections over the last 5 years. I take the pessimistic view on that issue that their skills at catching imports haven’t gotten better, but rather, that their ‘catch proportions’ to ‘actually sent goods’ have probably not changed a whole lot.
Is it because drugs are becoming more and more mainstream, and the fusion between technology, media and crime are all converging in a more homogenous manner than they used to? By way of example, I can’t imagine ever seeing an Australian state police force inviting a non mainstream media outlet to poke around their pretend meth lab, but in recent days, that’s exactly what happened. Vice wouldn’t have taken an interest if they didn’t believe their readership would be interested… so what makes Australia such a hotbed for drugs and the markets used to move them lately?
To paraphrase an observation I’ve made publicly elsewhere, DNMs have given rise to a channel of commerce between contextually ‘well to do’ end users of drugs which Australia has in abundance thanks to its strong labor unions helping to support blue collar workers (being a truck driver in the mining sector pays more than 100,000USD a year), and those who are using DNMs, both from within Australia and outside, to cut out the multiple tiers in the supply chain between seller and buyer, and keep everything anonymous to boot. Combine that economic factor with the pervasive anti authoritarian streak which is a big part of Australian culture (whether you want to put it down to their convict heritage or otherwise), and you’ve got just the right kind of pool of patrons to help DNMs proliferate, and there’s no reason to think it’ll slow down. I remain surprised that an Australian specific DNM hasn’t appeared as yet, but time will tell.