In 2006, one square meter of housing in Russia cost $600 and now – $840. A kilogram of beef rose in price from $2 to $5, a bottle of vodka – from $2.8 to $9, a ticket to a theatre went up by 226%. The price of clothes, food, public services has increased and the cost of only one consumer good has not changed, even decreased. Drugs get cheaper in all the world, including Russia. Let us figure out this illogical (from an economic perspective) phenomenon.
What do drug users say?
The only source of information on price of controlled substances fluctuation in Russia was the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS), disembodied in May 2016. FDCS reported incomplete and irregular statistics on price change. Its public representatives announced a cost increase of “hard drugs”, which was, of course, a result of Service’s effective work. However, it is hard to believe in an announced price of one heroin injection – $70. There are no serious scientific studies on the Russian drug market, that is why we had no choice but to ask users about it.
Mikhail (Ekaterinburg): “When I started to use drugs, 15-20 years ago, “a unit” (about 0.1 gram) of heroin cost $1.7. At the moment it is sold by grams at a price from $16 to $25, 5 grams are as much as $83″.
Valeria (Tolyatti): “I have been using opioids for more than 30 years already. The cost holds on the similar level – $16 per gram of heroin”.
Aleksey (Saint-Petersburg): “Weed has always been $11 per gram. Some dealers increased prices after the crisis and now you can buy marijuana for $16. But the average cost has not changed – $11-$12 – the same as it was 5 years ago”.
What is vendors’ opinion
Two drug dealers were interviewed, one of them lives in Saint-Petersburg and sells cannabis, the other one produces and distributes amphetamine and spices in Novosibirsk. Both of them confirm price stability and noticed a slight rise after depreciation of the Russian ruble in 2014.
Vladimir (Saint-Petersburg): “I have been vending for 5-6 years. I always buy in bulk, in this case the price is more profitable. For example, 100 grams of marijuana cost $500-$600. I set the regular retail price – $11 per gram, if a customer buys 10 or more grams I can give a discount. Although, some dealers manage to sell weed for $16 in case the strain is exclusive”.
Sergey (Novosibirsk): “When I arrived to Novosibirsk in 2006 a matchbox of cannabis imported from Kazakhstan cost $5. Soon the price increased up to $6, then $9 and stayed on that level for a long time. Afterwards that marijuana became an exclusive product and got more expensive – $16. Later it disappeared from the market completely, only spices were sold. For the time being you can buy only home-grown cannabis at the rocketed price which is from $33 to $83 per gram. Ten years ago it was $25. The cost price of 50 grams clean amphetamine is approximately $18. If sulfuric acid is admixed, you will get about 300 grams. The bulk price per gram is $16-$25, the retail one equals $33-$50. I would say that cost has not changed for the last five years, except in night clubs, where amphetamine is often overpriced – up to $85 per gram”.
Findings of researches
European and American researches confirm that prices of drugs not only stagnate, but also fall down in long-time terms. According to UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) the number of heroin and cocaine users increased by 3% in 2005 compared with 1992. At the same moment, during a 20 years’ time frame, the cost of 1 gram of cocaine went down from $99 to $83 in France. And in Portugal from $63 to $61, which is surprisingly insignificant if legalization is taken into account. The price fluctuation differs from state to state, but one common point is – it drops.
Billions of dollars are funded to fight drug trafficking in the USA every year, but it does not “break the trend”. In 1981, when federal agencies started collection of statistical data, the price of cocaine was sky-high – $600 per gram. At the moment it is $60-90 depending on geographical location towards the southern border.
Development of heroin prices is nevertheless impressive: since 2001 the cost of “street” heroin is quite stable – about $30 per gram, while before it cost $90. Twenty years ago this drug was a real luxury at the price $800 per gram in Finland, now you can buy it for $159. Luxemburg is the only state in the European Union where the cocaine price increased for the last 20 years, however heroin got cheaper – from $172 to $88. In the USA its street cost is $100-150, while in 1992 it topped $300.
Influence of darknet
In the beginning of 2010, people got basically new possibility – buy drugs on the internet. In order to obtain any stuff – from Valium to heroin – one should just learn how to use Tor browser.
A search on the biggest Russian darknet market Hydra showed that a gram of amphetamine can be bought in Novosibirsk at a much lower price compared with the one of Sergey (previously interviewed drug dealer) – $18-30. The opposite situation is in a price of marijuana – weed ordinarily costs $20 per gram, which is more than $11-13 stated by Vladimir. Heroin offer in Ekaterinburg is rather limited, but matches the value defined by Mikhail ($16-25) in most cases. An average price in Moscow is higher – about $33.
Russian DNMs grow and more people access darknet to buy drugs, but still it remains a prerogative of technically savvy and financially more prosperous consumer category.
According to the research conducted by “The Economist” a DNM price of heroin turned out to be twice as high as the street one. Cocaine is about 40% more expensive. This margin is attributed to the cost of packaging and delivery. Russian DNM vendors hide smaller parties of drugs across a town and send a buyer coordinates of a treasure. In this case the delivery expense covers work of professional “treasure men”.
An overprice of purchases made on DNMs is offset by improved quality control because customers can leave a feedback. “Energy Control”, Spanish research center, came to the conclusion that cocaine sold on the Internet is much cleaner in comparison with the street one (72% and 48%).