The social supply of cannabis in Australia: Definitional challenges and regulatory possibilities

  • Simon Lenton
  • Jodie Grigg
  • John Scott
  • Dr. Monica Barratt
Chapter

Abstract

In Australia, as elsewhere, retail markets for most illicit drugs including cannabis are often based upon friendships and occur in closed networks. Yet there is debate about whether ‘social supply’ should be limited to non-profit making by ‘friends’, and whether ‘minimally commercial supply’ is a more apt descriptor as many ‘social supply’ transactions often involve some small monetary or in-kind benefit. These definitional challenges are of interest in their own right, and also in considering whether and how, ‘social supply’ transactions could be treated differently in law. In this study, 200 Australian cannabis users aged 18-30 who were recruited from Melbourne, Perth and Armidale were interviewed face-to face, using a mixed quantitative and qualitative approach, to explore their experiences of accessing and providing cannabis. Most participants’ experiences of the cannabis market could be captured by the broad notion of ‘social supply’. However, definitional specificity was not aided by notions of friendship or profit. The findings have implications for the definition of ‘social supply’ and how low-level supply offences are addressed in law. Specifically, there may be merit in considering expanding current Australian drug diversion options, which typically include drug information and a brief intervention, beyond simple possession offences to include low-level supply of cannabis and other drugs, but it is unlikely a definition of ‘social supply’ could be applied in such regulations.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Australian Crime Commission (2015): Illicit Drug Data report 2013-14. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014): National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Drug statistics series no. 28. Cat. no. PHE 183. Canberra: AIHW.Google Scholar
  3. Belackova, V. & Vaccaro, C. A. (2013): A friend with weed is a friend indeed: Understanding the relationship between friendship identity and market relations among marijuana users. Journal of Drug Issues, 43(3): 289-313.Google Scholar
  4. Coomber, R. & Moyle, L. (2014): Beyond drug dealing: Developing and extending the concept of ‘social supply’ of illicit drugs to ‘minimally commercial supply’. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy, 21(2): 157-164. doi: 10.3109/09687637.2013.798265.
  5. Coomber, R. & Turnbull, P. (2007): Arenas of drug transactions: adolescent cannabis transactions in England—social supply. Journal of Drug Issues, 22: 1-22.Google Scholar
  6. Duffy, M., Schaefer, N., Coomber, R., O’Connell, L. & Turnbull, P. J. (2006): Cannabis supply and young people ‘It’s a social thing’. London: Kings College London.Google Scholar
  7. Duffy, M., Schaefer, N., Coomber, R., O’Connell, L. & Turnbull, P. J. (2007): How do young people obtain cannabis? A snapshot view from a large city and rural villages. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  8. EMCDDA ((undated)): Treatment as an alternative to prosecution or imprisonment for adults. Lisbon: EMCDDA. http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index13223EN.html.(Accessed 06.07.2015).
  9. Gossop, M., Griffiths, P., Powis, B. & Strang, J. (1992): Severity of dependence and route of administration of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. British Journal of Addiction, 87: 1527 -1536.Google Scholar
  10. Grigg, J., Scott, J., Lenton, S. & Barratt, M. (2015): The social supply of cannabis in Australia (National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund, Monograph Series No. 59). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  11. Harm Reduction International (2015): The Global State of harm reduction 2014. London: International Harm Reduction Association. www.ihra.net (Accessed 17.02.2015).
  12. Hough, M., Warburton, H., Few, B., May, T., Man, L.-H., Witton, J., et al. (2003): A Growing Market: The Domestic Cultivation of Marijuana. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  13. Hughes, C. (2011): Bulletin No. 18: Legislative thresholds for drug possession and traffic: An overview of State and Territory differences in Australia. (Stage 2) – updated August 2011. DPMP Bulletin Series. Drug Policy Modelling Program, National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre: UNSW.Google Scholar
  14. Hughes, C. E. (2009): Capitalising upon political opportunities to reform drug policy: A case study into the development of the Australian "Tough on Drugs – Illicit Drug Diversion Initiative". International Journal of Drug Policy, 20(5): 431-437.Google Scholar
  15. Jacinto, C., Duterte, M., Sales, P. & Murphy, S. (2008): "I'm not a real dealer": The identity process of ecstasy sellers. The Journal of Drug Issues, 38(2): 419-444.Google Scholar
  16. Lenton, S., Grigg, J., Scott, J., Barratt, M. & Eleftheriadis, D. (2015): The social supply of cannabis among young people in Australia. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 503. Available at: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/501-520/tandi503.html (Accessed 15.12.15).
  17. Martin, G., Copeland, J., Gates, P. & Gilmour, S. (2006): The Severity of Dependence Scale (SDS) in an adolescent population of cannabis users: Reliability, validity and diagnostic cut-off. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 83(1): 90-93. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2005.10.014 (Accessed 09.12.2015).
  18. Maruna, S. & Copes, H. (2005): What have we learned from five decades of neutralization research? Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, 32: 221-230.Google Scholar
  19. Moyle, L., Coomber, R. & Lowther, J. (2013). Crushing a Walnut with a Sledge Hammer? Analysing the Penal Response to the Social Supply of Illicit Drugs. Social & Legal Studies, 22(4): 553-573. doi: 10.1177/0964663913487544 (Accessed 09.12.2015).
  20. New Zealand Law Commission (2011): Controlling and Regulating Drugs: A review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Wellington: NZLC.Google Scholar
  21. Parker, H. (2000): How young britons obtain their drugs: Drugs transactions at the point of consumption. M. Natarajan, & M. Hough (eds.), Illegal drug markets: From research to prevention policy (pp 59-81). Monsey, N.Y.: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  22. Potter, G. R. (2009): Exploring retail-level drug distribution: Social supply, ‘real’ dealers and the user/dealer interface. Z. Demetrovics, J. Fountain, & L. Kraus (eds.), Old and new policies, theories, research methods and drug users across Europe (pp 50-74). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Ritter, A. & McDonald, D. (2008): Illicit drug policy: Scoping the interventions and taxonomies. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 15(1): 15-35.Google Scholar
  24. Sykes, G. M. & Matza, D. (1957): Techniques of Neutralization: A Theory of Delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6): 664-670.Google Scholar
  25. The Center for Health and Justice at TASC (2013): No Entry: A National Survey of Criminal Justice Diversion Programs and Initiatives. Chicago: Author. www.centerforhealthandjustice.org (Accessed 06.07.2015).
  26. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2014). World Drug Report 2014. Vienna: UNODC.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Lenton
    • 1
  • Jodie Grigg
    • 1
  • John Scott
    • 2
  • Dr. Monica Barratt
    • 3
  1. 1.National Drug Research InstituteCurtin UniversityPerthAustralien
  2. 2.School of Justice, Faculty of LawQueensland University of Technology BrisbaneAustralien
  3. 3.NDARC University of New South Wales SydneyAustralien

Personalised recommendations