Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology edition:7th location:Bologna date:26-29 September 2007
The paper draws from the realization that, despite the overarching international drug prohibition regime, opiate market activities are subject to varying illegality across countries. These can be classified in the three categories of strict, lax and no enforcement, the last category usually coinciding with state or quasi-state authorities’ tolerance or support for opiate production and trade. The paper argues that variations in illegality are the most important factor to explain the world distribution of illegal opium production and the organization and societal consequences of opiate markets.
Opium poppy cultivation tends to concentrate in countries with no enforcement of the worldwide opium prohibition regime and with local governments’ tolerance or support for opiate production and trade. A comparative analysis of domestic opiate markets demonstrates that large, stable illicit enterprise are likely to emerge in countries with lax or no enforcement of prohibition, whereas their consolidation is very unlikely in nations with strict enforcement. Variations in prohibition enforcement and thus opiates’ effective illegality affect the risk assessments and the modus operandi of illegal entrepreneurs. They also profoundly influence the social legitimacy of opiates production, trade and consumption and their consequences for the surrounding national society and the government itself.
The paper also discusses the extent to which these findings can be extended to other illegal markets.