Market testing and market policing: illuminating the fluid micro-sociology of the illegal drug supply enterprise in liquid modernity

Robert McLean, Chris Holligan, Iain McPhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Understanding Scotland’s illegal drug market continues to challenge social scientists. Most evidently neglected are processes related to social supply, from supplier perspectives. When analyzing illegal drug markets, demand-based approaches, customarily sourcing drug users, grossly overlook supplier perspectives. Thus, a qualitative research inquiry interviewing former drug dealers facilitated exploration of a supply-based approach that detailed processes of supply in relation to market level. Situating the findings within the disruptive lens of Chatwin and Potters’ (2014) concept of extending drug use normalization to embrace a dimension of market fluidity to drug supply dealing in Scotland, the researchers interviewed 35 former drug suppliers, learning about drug distribution behavioral patterns. Retail-level dealerships and higher market echelons exemplified an embodiment of the complexity of this social world. Any model aimed at characterizing Scotland’s illegal drugs market must acknowledge and incorporate aspects of social supply (e.g., recreational drugs) and recognize the fluid nature of “normalization,” taking account into its tacit embeddedness in a “local economy” with its own history and distinctive cultural geography. Unless the nuances of these various social formations are acknowledged, the potential of national policing strategies to address the crimes connected with drugs will go unrealized due to their conceptual and pragmatic inadequacies. It is ironic that a commitment to a generalized drug market conception of official enforcement is likely to sow the seeds for an unnecessary criminalization of minor serendipitous offenders and encourage reoffending patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-497
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number5
Early online date30 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


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