Electronic drug markets enable calculative, impersonal trade between faceless strangers, but also intimate interaction between pseudonymous users. In this space, do people treat banned drugs as ordinary consumer products that can be purchased from anyone? Or do drug-takers frame their consumption as a counter-cultural activity? To answer these questions, I use qualitative and computational research methods to analyse 3788 electronically published consumer reports of cannabis and psychedelic drugs from the period 2011–2017. I find that report writers emphasise product quality, customer service and transaction value, and devote less attention to the social and political sides of drug-taking. Discussions about legality, morality and counter-cultural ideas are completely absent from the texts, even in psychedelic reports, which detail profound effects. These findings suggest that drug e-commerce is primarily a normalising force, and that widening access to banned drugs is unlikely to disseminate counter-cultural perspectives.
- drug markets
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science