The Difference Between a User and a Consumer
What is the difference between buying wine and cocaine?
When you buy wine, it's a fairly simple process.
1) Farmer grows grapes.
2) Wine producer bottles grape juice.
3) The wine is stored and awaits shipment.
4) Wine is then loaded onto cargo freighters, on its way to a wine consumer.
5) Consumers heartily drink their wine in good company.
Cocaine follows a decidedly different path.
1) Cocoa farmers grow their plants.
2) Cocaine producers buy the plants and turn them into cocaine.
3) The cocaine is packaged and awaits shipment.
5) Users ingest their cocaine in questionable company.
This is where the crucial difference lies. What happens at step 4? Why is it such a mystery?
Firstly, it is illegal to possess, transport or (at least in some countries) be under the influence of cocaine, so this is where the logistics start getting interesting.
People all over the world use cocaine just as people all over the world drink wine, but where does the cocaine come from if it is illegal?
One way to gain direct access to the producers is through the internet. Many of the drug purveyors offer to ship you drugs directly by mail. This method has a wide and varied customer base, including anyone from celebrities like Michael Douglas' son, to local British immigrant gangs. However, this method is quite risky due to frequent busts at post offices and DHL processing centres - although buying prescription drugs online seems to be a less risky alternative.
Besides being risky, the postal method does not guarantee the buyer any control over the quality of the product purchased. To remedy this one might resort to frequenting crack houses to get a hands on approach, but being caught in the vicinity of a crack house might result in you having your rectum examined by police. The burden of distribution therefore must shift to a third party: the dealer.
The dealer has nothing to do with production or marketing. Most of the marketing is actually done by word of mouth on the part of the buyer because, coincidentally, advertising drugs is also illegal (although some might argue that Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Bon Jovi and Kate Moss might be doing some inadvertent guerrilla advertising). So what does a dealer do exactly?
A dealer assumes most of the risk and, ironically, is severely underpaid. However the dealer also gets the most attention from the media and the police - hence he gains status. Although this status might be misplaced, it suits the current criminal justice system in many countries just fine.
The dealer liaises between the clients and producers, maintains healthy business relations, diffuses new products and technology and also gives advice on proper drugs use; services that are not available anywhere else and that they (most likely) gained through experience, learning the hard way, so to speak.
So why are dealers so underpaid while taking the brunt of the punishment? Because they are the perfect scapegoat, they are the only dispensable link in the chain that allows the drug market to continue thriving unharmed. There are so many industries and people that owe their living to the drug trade that actually eliminating it would have dire economic consequences.
What exactly would happen if drug producers were eliminated or if drug consumers stopped buying drugs? Mayhem. Unemployed DEA officers would form militias and begin roaming the streets for the drugs they've (since becoming unemployed) grown addicted to. Dealers, with their acute business sense, would become multi-millionaires just like 50 Cent did. Customers will, being jealous of their ex-dealers and afraid of the DEA soldiers in the streets, drink copious amounts of wine to help them acclimate to this new social terrain.