According to research presented at the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association Conference this month, Australia is only second to the Netherlands in the number of darknet market vendors per capita. There are a higher number of vendors from Australia on darknet markets when it comes to global trade of drugs, especially methamphetamine. These vendors account for over a quarter of methamphetamine traded on online markets.
The researchers say that the hidden drug trade online resembles the conventional drug trade. According to the research presented at the conference, cannabis was identified as the most popular drug sold, representing a quarter of all recorded sales made by Australian vendors on the darknet markets. Cannabis is also the most commonly sold illegal drug in the conventional drugs trade as well. Men accounted for 82% of Australian darknet market users, and the average age of darknet market user was found to be 22 years old, according to a team of researchers who presented at the conference.
The researchers also analyzed the prices of drugs sold on the darknet markets. A huge difference in prices between vendors located outside of Australia and vendors located within Australia was revealed by the research. The price of ecstasy from Australian vendors was six times higher than what vendors located outside of Australia charged for ecstasy. Aussie darknet market vendors also charged approximately three times as much for methamphetamine and cocaine than vendors outside of Australia charged. Only the prices of cannabis were relatively equivalent among both Australian vendors and vendors from other countries.
The researcher’s findings indicate that unlike most foreign vendors, Australian vendors are selling their products for essentially the same prices that local Australian street dealers sell their products for. Only the methamphetamine prices of Australian darknet market vendors were significantly cheaper than the prices of local Australian street dealers, approximately 45% cheaper. The researchers stated that further research will be needed to determine why methamphetamine from Australian darknet vendors is so much cheaper than what Australian street dealers are selling it for. However, the researchers speculated that the reason for the decline in the price of methamphetamine on the darknet could be that Australian vendors find it both less risky, and less costly, to trade online than to trade on the streets; possibly because of recent crackdowns on the methamphetamine trade by law enforcement, and the involvement of violent organized crime in distributing methamphetamine.
The researchers also speculated that Australian darknet vendors could be benefitting and profiting from the protectionism given to them by Australian law enforcement. Australians may believe that the Australian border protection forces are so effective at intercepting and stopping the importation of drugs from foreign darknet market vendors, that they are unwilling to order from overseas and are instead willing to pay the higher prices of Australian vendors. This perception of the effectiveness of Australian law enforcement, whether true or not, prevents Australian vendors from having to compete with the more affordable prices of foreign darknet market vendors.
There were some silver linings that the researchers found regarding the impact of online markets on consumers and society. People who purchase from darknet markets were more likely to receive high quality products, have greater access to harm reduction information, and fewer instances of threats and violence than consumers who purchased their drugs on the street. They also found that darknet markets reduced the potential for systemic violence between drug dealers. However, due to the absence of full drug legalization, darknet markets have yet to be able to reduce the systemic violence in countries, such as Mexico, that are the sources for many drugs. They believe such violence will only be reduced or eliminated through the implementation of legal markets for drugs.