Young dealers

An international study has showed the similarities between youngsters and drug trafficking in three countries. One of the most important conclusions is that young dealers clearly resemble their seniors when it comes to specialisation and differentiation when selling drugs. There are “petty” dealers who do a little of cannabis trafficking in their own environment, there are the more professional ones who sell party drugs and finally there are the busy dealers of crack and heroin. The common characteristic to both young and older dealers is the intention  to provide drugs and make a profit. In some cases this profit may only consist in free drugs for self-consumption while in others bigger economical profits are achieved depending on the substance.


A part from the traditional views that relate young dealers to economic depravation there are other important reasons why they may want to get involved with drugs. One of the them is the rite of passage, not only from child to adulthood, but also to prove that they can become members by personal merit of any gang. Another motive is that young people get lower sentences than adults in case of being caught and also due to their optimism and attitude towards life they think they can get away with anything. In addition young dealers look at their personal position as a powerful tool of social connexion with their clients at the same time that they use the profit of their transactons to buy luxury items.


The study that compared data from detained young dealers aged between 14 and 17 in four different cities, in three different countries, and two different continents showed that only a third of the Amsterdam detainees had provided drugs more than a few times in their life, while the majority of the other participants Philadelphia, Montreal and Toronto had done so.  The research also adds that dealers prefer to sell cannabis although there are a high percentage of people who get involved with other drugs. A common characteristic to all dealers is that they always work as part of a group, usually working for someone else, rather than working alone and that their customers are people they know. This, actually, makes more sense when we take into consideration that teenagers usually take drugs among friends and that they do not normally acquire them from strangers.

Cannabis sellers, according to the study, were mainly western males, and in some occasion they sold other drugs such as cocaine and hallucinogens. Compared to other type of dealers, the cannabis seller makes the least amount of money in his transactions, usually no more than 200 CAD/EUR/USD per week. This profit in some cases, however, may increase when he receives drugs as payment for his services but in any case the total amount is no more than 100 CAD/EUR/USD extra. Cannabis dealers had an average of 20 transactions in a week and they score low on violence-related items such as perpetration or victimisation although half of them have carried or used a weapon while selling.


Similar to cannabis dealers, Party drug sellers, that is the dealers exclusively involved with dealing cocaine, hallucinogens, and amphetamines were predominately western males, although occasionally they may also deal with cannabis and crack. Profits are more lucrative because as the evidence suggest up to a 75% of this collective make more than 500 CAD/EUR/USD. To this, it must also be added the large payment in drugs. Party drug sellers are, compared to cannabis dealers, much busier making an average of 183 transactions per week and they also face higher risks: police involvement and violent confrontations are quite common. Indeed figures revealed that over a half of them had been arrested prior to the 12 months in which the study took place and also that more than 80% have injured or assaulted some else. Finally and unlike the other two groups, street drug sellers, that is, crack and heroin dealers were of non western origin, and they made the highest number of transactions with an average of 226.


The results of this study show that drug dealers do not operate on their own and like their senior colleagues they belong to a distribution chain of which they are the last piece. For that reason it would be easy to affirm that if older dealers get easily manipulated young ones, nevertheless will indeed get in deeper confusion and disposed of any information about their future. Perhaps this study has also failed to showed the process of becoming a drug dealer: the audacity that it takes, the courage to break the law at so early stage in life, the risks of finishing in prison and the falsely glamorised world of crime so endlessly portrayed by the media.


To find out more see "Teen drug sellers- An international study of segregated drug markets and related violence" by Dirk J. Korf, Serge Brochu, Annemieke Benschop, Landa D. Harrison and Patricia G. Erickson in Contemporary Drug Problems 35/Spring 08