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Should we smoke it for you as well? An ethnographic analysis of a drug cryptomarket environment.

Kowalski M, Hooker C, Barratt MJ

  • Journal The International journal on drug policy

  • Published 01 May 2019

  • Volume 73

  • Pagination 245-254

  • DOI 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.03.011


Why aren't cryptomarkets more widely used? Researchers from a wide array of fields have attempted to answer this question by studying the size of drug cryptomarkets, the substances trafficked, and their structure. In this paper we address the potential acceptance of drug cryptomarkets by studying their perceived ease of use.

This paper draws on observational data collected over 350 h of unstructured observation during an ethnographic study conducted in April-September 2016 of the two most prominent drug cryptomarkets at the time, in addition to seven face-to-face semi-structured qualitative interviews.

Use of cryptomarkets relies on specialised knowledge. The administrators of the cryptomarkets do not play a publicly visible role in facilitating or easing cryptomarket use while simultaneously expecting cryptomarket users to exhibit self-reliance. We argue that the current levels of complexity and obfuscation constructed in the cryptomarket environment act as a barrier to the widespread acceptance of this technology.

Through studying cryptomarkets' potential for widespread use we have shed light on current barriers to their growth requirement of specialised knowledge in order to use cryptomarkets and no public efforts to bridge the knowledge gap on behalf of cryptomarket administrators. As cryptomarkets continue to develop the ease of use of these platforms are bound to change, and with them the likelihood that cryptomarket usage may increase.