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Chapter 15 ENGLISH DEALERS PDF Print E-mail
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Books - The Dream Sellers
Written by Richard Blum   
Saturday, 24 November 2012 00:00

Great Britain, like many other Western nations, has a population of illicit-drug users and, consequently, has its dealers as well. We are not aware of epidemiological or survey studies which indicate the prevalence of illicit use among British youth as a whole. It is known that occasional illicit use occurs among school children (Wiener, 1970); that opiate use has been on the increase over the last decade (Bewley, 1966); and that, at the beginning of 1970, there were 1,466 identified heroin cases (Home Office, 1970), plus approximately 1,400 using other opiates. Greater heroin use is revealed when other case-finding methods are applied (De Alarcon and Rathod, 196§; De Alarcon, 1969). The use of amphetmaines and hallucinogens also has been increasing slowly over the decade, judging from conviction figures-2,486 convictions in 1967 and 3,762 in 1969 (Home Office, 1970). And Clark (1971) has estimated that 60 per cent of university students have had experience with illicit substances—cannabis being the most common (Schofield, 1971)—and that regular cannabis use is engaged in by about 20 per cent of the university student population, more of whom are increasingly initiated into illicit use in preuniversity years.

Bean (1971) studied a census of cases appearing in London courts on drug charges over a ten-week period. Among these identified offenders, multiple-drug use was the pattern; the majority had used cannabis, amphetamines, heroin, and methadone. Most were regular (daily) users who received their supplies from dealers rather than from medical sources. Compared to national figures, these users more often came from very high or very low socioeconomic backgrounds. In spite of the absence, for most, of "deprived" backgrounds, the majority- had a history of nondrug delinquency. Even so, delinquency was more common among offenders with lower-class, as opposed to middle- or upper-class backgrounds. Young (1971) has considered the English drug scene in its larger social as well as criminological perspective. In his view, current laws and myths rather than imputed delinquency require the primary examination. The most recent descriptions of English drug users, their characteristics, and their sources is to be found in I. P. James (1971) and Hawks (1971).


Britain, like the United States, is a signatory to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. As such, Britain is obliged to impose legal controls on drugs covered by this Convention. Until 1971 the British law did not distinguish, in penalties applied, between dealing in drugs and possession of them. Indeed, the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence (1968) decided that it would not be possible to do so. The Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971 (which was supported by both the major parties in Parliament), however, does change the law. The maximum penalty for dealing is at least double that for simple possession.

The law in force at the time of our interviews with the English dealers (later repealed by the 1971 Act) was contained in a series of statutes. The principal Act was the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1965, which controlled heroin, cocaine, opium, and cannabis, together with other drugs such as morphine, methadone, and pethidine (meperidine). The Act, and regulations made under it, made it an offense to import, export, manufacture, cultivate, supply, procure, offer to supply, offer to procure, or possess any of these drugs without authority, and also prohibited various other activities with respect to prepared opium, such as possessing a pipe for smoking opium. In addition, an occupier or manager of premises committed an offense if he permitted those premises to be used for the purpose of smoking cannabis, or of dealing in cannabis, whether by sale or otherwise.

Under the 1965 Act, all offenses carried the same maximum penalty, ten years' imprisonment or L 1,000 ($2,600) fine or both' At the time of writing, the maximum penalty of ten years had been imposed on only two occasions: in 1965, on a 37-year-old Nigerian for supplying one grain of heroin to a 15-year-old boy; and in 1969, to a Canadian found guilty of importing a large quantity of cannabis. The 1965 Act has been critiziced as lacking adequate powers to deal effectively with trafficking (Lord Windlesham, House of Lords, 14 January, 1971). Although there is no difference in the penalties for them, British law follows the Single Convention in distinguishing between two varieties of cannabis. One, known simply as cannabis (or cannabis herb), is defined as the flowering or fruiting tops of any plant of the genus Cannabis from which the resin has not been extracted (that is, marijuana). The other, cannabis resin, is the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from any plant of the genus Cannabis (that is, hashish). The seeds and leaves have never been within the Drug Acts, but intentional cultivation without a license is prohibited. Under the old law, amphetamines and hallucinogens (which were added to the Act in 1966) were controlled under the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act of 1964. This Act prohibited the unauthorized possession or import of these drugs, but did not specifically make an offense of dealing in these drugs. A person accused of dealing in them may be convicted of possession or, alternatively, with aiding, abetting, counseling, or procuring someone to be in unlawful possession. The maximum penalty under this Act was two years' imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both. Barbiturates were not controlled by either of these Acts, but only by the Pharmacy and Poisons Act of 1933, which controls the distribution and sale of poisons. It hA never been an offense to possess barbiturates, but unauthorized sale may be penalized on summary conviction by a fine of up to £50 ($130). There is no possibility of a prison sentence. Methaqualone, the principal constituent of Mandrax, a sedative-hypnotic which has recently been widely abused, was brought within the provisions of the 1964 Act in early 1971.

The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1967 made new provisions on the subject of searching suspected drug users in public places. The relevant section provides that if a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is in possession of a drug in contravention of any of the Drug Acts, the constable may stop and search him or a vehicle in which he is traveling. "Reasonable grounds" are at the constable's discretion. In practice it is difficult to prove that a search under this provision is unlawful. A search warrant is usually required before a private house can be lawfully searched (Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, 1970). In any case, the British law on admissibility of evidence is not nearly as strict as in the United States, and evidence obtained in an illegal search may be used.

Until the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1967, any doctor could prescribe heroin to anyone dependent on it. However, in 1966 the number of known heroin addicts began to rise steeply, and for the first time in recent years exceeded 1,000. There was evidence, also for the first time, of a small number of doctors prescribing excessive amounts of heroin, a large amount of which was reaching the black market and was stated to be responsible for the spread of heroin use. The result of this (Interdepartmental Committee, 1965) was the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1967, which specified that only doctors who are specially licensed to do so may prescribe heroin, morphine, and cocaine to addicts. These drugs may be freely prescribed, however, for the relief of pain and for other purposes unconnected with addiction. In practice, these licensed doctors are usually attached to the drug-addiction treatment centers, set up following the 1967 Act, or to other hospitals with facilities for the treatment of addiction.

The result of this Act has been to reduce substantially the amount of heroin of legal manufacture being used by addicts since the treatment centers have tended to underprescribe rather than overprescribe. It has tended to be the policy of the treatment centers to replace heroin with methadone (dispensed in Britain under the name "Physeptone"), on which the user/addict is maintained. Syringes and needles are available in Britain both cheaply and legally.

Recently, the price of street heroin has risen from the 1967 price of about Ll ($2.60) to the present price of about L6 ($15.60) per grain (60 mg.). As the price has increased, some users—who have not been prescribed all that they feel they require—have turned to cheaper substitutes available on the streets such as barbiturates or the so-called "Chinese" heroin. In the course of such use, illnesses have developed, with a number of addicts suffering gangrene and subsequent amputations. "Chinese" heroin has been on the illicit market sporadically since 1967 and is powdered, impure heroin, sometimes brown, sold in packets of between 3/6 and 1/3 grain, for about L 1 ($2.60) to £1.50 ($3.90) each. It is distributed principally through the Chinese community in London and presumed to come from Hong Kong.

It is in respect to such drugs as heroin that the British law differs sharply from American laws. Although possession of heroin not obtained under a valid prescription is a serious offense in the eyes of the British law, drug addiction is treated primarily as a medical condition and only secondarily as a criminal one. The desired effect is to make the country less attractive to a dealer in heroin, who might wish to expand his trade by getting users dependent on his supplies. In Britain anyone who is addicted is able to get supplies of his drug from a treatment center. Under the National Health Service a prescription for a\ day's supply of heroin or methadone costs the user not more than 20 ' pence (48 cents). There is, thus, no need to resort to crime to support one's addiction. The competition from legal heroin keeps the price of imported heroin down (despite contradictory contentions from foreign politicians), thus lowering potential dealer profits.

Another difference between the British and American scene is that in Britain hashish is much more common than is marijuana. It is easier to import, because it is less bulky and is the form usually produced in the Middle East and Asia. It costs about L 10 to L12 an ounce ($26 to $31). Marijuana costs about the same when it is available, even though it is less potent. LSD is most commonly available in tablet form, although it has been on sale on gelatine, sugar cubes, blotting paper, and so forth. Its price varies considerably but is typically between 30 pence (72 cents) and L 1. There have been no published reports of illegal importation or manufacture of barbiturates or amphetamines on a large scale. These sell at anything up to 15 pence (36 cents) per tablet.

The conviction statistics cannot be relied upon to yield an accurate picture of the relative popularity of various drugs; for conviction rates may reflect the priorities and outcomes of police activity and not the number of actual users of each drug. For example, Table 1 shows a lower proportion of LSD convictions than one might expect, considering the widespread use of the drug and the adverse public view of it. Perhaps arrests and convictions are infrequent because LSD is easily concealed, used only occasionally, and consumed totally. 1970 figures (Home Office, Drugs Branch) show a rise in convictions over 1969 for LSD.

It will be seen from the table that there are many more convictions for possession than for supply, this in spite of the expressed police priority for dealer arrests. One explanation is that dealing usually includes possession at some stage, and possession is far easier to prove in court. Under the old law, penalties were the same for both offences, and little would be lost if supplying could not be proved. Under the new law, the penalties for possession are still very substantial, and it is therefore possible that the same proportion of convictions for possession as against supplying will prevail.

Early in 1970, the labour government, then in power, introduced the Misuse of Drugs bill to replace the 1964, 1965, and 1967 Acts. The act sets out to consolidate and amend the previous law, and in particular to distinguish between the penalties for dealing and possession and to classify drugs according to their potential danger. It prohibits import, export, production, supply or offer to supply, possession with intent to supply, possession, and, if one is an occupant or concerned in the management of premises, knowingly permitting certain activities to take place there. These activities are producing, supplying, offering to supply, preparing opium, or smoking cannabis or opium. There are also the same opium offenses, and an offense of cultivation of cannabis, as under the 1965 Act. For all important drugs except barbiturates and methaqualone, the maximum penalties for any of these offenses is increased to fourteen years' imprisonment, with or without a fine.

The Act creates a new offense of possession with intent to supply. This is intended to cover a case where a person is found in possession of a large quantity of drugs where actual supplying cannot be shown but where the intent can be proved—as for example by the discovery of scales, or the packaging of drugs. The Act divides the drugs into two classes. Class A contains heroin, methadone, cocaine, LSD, mescaline, opium, and injectable amphetamines, among others. The maximum penalty for unauthorized possession of a drug in this group is seven years' imprisonment and/or a fine. Class B drugs include principally cannabis, cannabis resin, and amphetamines. The maximum penalty for possession is five years' imprisonment or a fine or both. In 1969 less than 1 per cent of those prosecuted for possession of small quantities of cannabis were sent to prison (Baroness Wootton, House of Lords, 14 January 1971). There is also a class C category under which the penalties are lower. Methaqualone is the only class C drug which is commonly taken recreationally. Barbiturates are not controlled under this Act—apparently because they cannot be included without interfering in the ordinary practice of medicine.

In addition, the Act provides that a doctor who is suspected of overprescribing a psychoactive drug be suspended for continuing to over prescribe it (after warning). Previously such a doctor could only be accused by the General Medical Council of serious professional misconduct and could continue to prescribe until struck off the Medical Register. Overprescribing is not considered a criminal offence. The powers of search and restrictions on prescribing heroin, morphine, and cocaine contained in the 1967 Act are included in the 1971 Act without substantial alteration.

The reasoning offered for the Act was that dealers pose more of a menace than users of drugs and therefore should be more severely punished for selling or distributing drugs. Elystan Morgan, the labour minister who first introduced the bill in Parliament, said, "The area of the pusher is the very area in which criminal sanctions can have their effect" (House of Commons, 16 July 1970). When the Conservatives came into power in 1970, they took over the bill; and one of their spokesman, Lord Windlesham, said that without this legislation "professional pushers and other criminals would be left to their own devices in exploiting, for their own gain, the weaknesses of human nature" (House of Lords, 14 January 1971). Another supporter of the bill had this to say:

"Most [traffickers] are utterly merciless. For money they are prepared to debase and degrade and ruin the health of people. They are prepared to see an individual die in the utmost misery having endured the most frightful agony" (Baroness Summerskill, House of Lords, 11 February 1971).

The feeling behind the Act is well illustrated by Lord Brook: "If a person is just taking drugs, the penalty should be small and effective, but it is doubtful if he should go to prison at all." However, "anyone trafficking in drugs is taking part in murder, not only one murder, but several murders, and it may be many murders. . . . I personally think the penalty should not be reduced from fourteen years to ten, but if anything should be increased from fourteen years to life." Scientific or other empirical evidence for distinguishing so sharply between users and dealers has not been offered. What is clear is that there is a widely held and strong opinion that a drug dealer intentionally profits from human weaknesses. The sentencing of the courts reflects this sentiment. On the other hand, the police—although they often claim to be concentrating on arresting drug pushers (Observer, May 2, 1971)—do not always see the dealer in as evil a stance as Parliamentary opinion. For example, the Hampshire Constabulary (1969) has said, "The common conception of a trafficker being some older person who manipulates the supply and demand from behind the scenes and whose identity is known only to a few is often far from true, although such types do exist. In many cases young people still at school or college are able to 'score' and they themselves commence to deal with their friends and associates on a profit-making basis."

Sampling Dealers

How does a sample of English dealers, self-identified as such and drawn from the "mod" drug scene of metropolitan areas, differ from our California sample? Release, a legal-aid group staffed by concerned young people, volunteered to seek information bearing on this query. During 1970, Release saw about 10,000 young people who wanted advice on legal matters, welfare or health counseling, or other community service. Through these Release clients, staff and their acquaintances, plus cooperating agencies, English drug dealers were identified. The sample selected contained (a) dealers contacted through the social chain of acquaintances, including already interviewed dealers; (b) dealers-users (mostly heroin) being treated in centers; (c) Release clients (usually cannabis users) receiving legal counsel for drug charges; and (d) dealers contacted without introduction in drug marketplaces (Piccadilly Circus, Kensington cafes, and the like).

The rate of cooperation varied depending upon the introduction, with (d) above proving least useful. It is estimated that, overall, two thirds of all those contacted agreed to participate, although only one third kept their later interview appointments, enabling them to be included in the study population. We had hoped to include a sample of imprisoned as well as free dealers, but permission could not be obtained for such interviews. The sample N of 96 is smaller than that intended, but the problems of case finding coupled with limitations of funds for interviewers proved insurmountable.

The case-finding method employed in the English study is based, like the California one, on sampling diverse populations. The English study does rely more, however, on dealers who have come to the attention of agencies—either Release itself or one of the several cooperating treatment centers. Over half of the interviews were from these "institutional" sources, even though it must be emphasized that Release is hardly an "Establishment" center. Whenever one rests a sample upon those cases known to agencies—however popular the agency maybe—some types of cases are almost certain to be missed. Morris (1957) has demonstrated that such self-selection as a bias source occurs in England (in health studies) as elsewhere. We must, consequently, expect that the English sample, both by dint of small size and the select dealer pools from which interview subjects were drawn, is not "representative" of all English dealers. Nevertheless, in age, drug histories, and ethnic composition we believe that it represents an important sector of English dealers serving a major population of English drug-using youth.

As will be seen, the English sample differs from the American one in some striking ways. We find 407 significant differences when inquiry and rating areas are compared by our test of the difference between two proportions, and we find 313 significant F tests. We shall be audacious enough to propose that these may be "real" differences between the two populations (London and California) rather than artifacts due to sampling error. These speculations—and they are that—shall imply that national (cultural) differences do affect drug use and
dealing careers.

Examining the two sets of data, we find that the English dealers are less diverse in age, for all of them are in the 16 through 35 brackets. The majority are, like the California sample, 19 to 23 years old. There are proportionately more males in the English group, and there are more with advanced degrees. The arts (including musical performers) are more strongly represented among the English dealers, who are also more often single and white than their American counterpart sample.

Business managers are more represented among fathers of the English sample; parental marriages are more stable, and alcoholism among parents is less often described. Within the family the oldest siblings of English dealers appear to be less often arrested, less often to have alcohol problems, and less often to be drug peddlers than their American (more delinquent) counterparts. As is to be expected, then, siblings less often have introduced our English dealers to illicit drugs.
In their drug histories, the English dealers, compared with American, report more hashish as opposed to marijuana use, and have heavier late-teen and early-twenties hallucinogen use. Variations in other drugs, by age, exist but are inconsistent in direction and not frequent. There is at present a greater preference among the English for hallucinogens, in contrast to a greater preference for sedatives., by Americans. Initiation into illicit use for the English dealer more often occurred via a same-age, same-sex friend and was more likely to occur in the 16 to 18 bracket. Coffee shops and other public places indoors and other less intimate settings were more often the scene of illicit initiation in London than in California.

With regard to dealing careers, upon meeting a dealer for the first time the English youth more often said he "approved" immediately of the dealer's trade—in contrast to the frightened or nervous California youth; and he was more often required to buy at cost than to receive as a gift his first illicit drug. The costs of drugs were, when money did change hands, considerably lower in England than in California. Amphetamines and hashish in London—as opposed to marijuana, sedatives, and hallucinogens in California—were the drugs first used. Substances sold in England were more often amphetamines, as opposed to early hallucinogen sale by California dealers. English dealers' first sales were concluded under the same circumstances as those of their first illicit use, especially in coffee shops and the like.

These first sales were mostly when they were 16 to 18 years old, whereas in the American sample the age of first selling ranges over more years, both before 16 and especially after 18. Linked to the older age at the time of the first sale is the older age for the Californians' first customers. Earlier commercialization of English dealing is suggested, not only by the prevalence of early purchase over sharing but by an earlier reliance on dealers (as opposed to friends and relatives) as initial sources for supply. English dealers probably were identified, (took on the role of the dealer) at an earlier age, as users in possession of salable quantities of drugs, since English dealers report that initial sales came about when others approached them; in contrast, the Americans gen erally had to go out to drum up business. Compatible with the earlier approval of the dealing role, English dealers more than American describe their response to becoming a dealer as one of indifference. Consistent with this less "flappable" self-portrayal, English dealers more often deny any concern over violating the law at the time of initial dealing-supplying and also more often deny any sense of guilt.

English dealers indicate a quicker start on their business careers, more initiating strictly commercial transactions. Early on, customers were not drawn from friends. Dealing with strangers had early consequences for the English dealers; for more of them report that in their early stages they were arrested, found out by parents or authorities, or cheated or robbed by their customers or business associates. These difficulties evidently have not deterred them, for more among the English sample are active dealers than among the California sample. The California sample contains more "sometimes" or casual dealers and terminated ones. The English sample contains more dealers who are considering quitting, and among these more who fear arrest and jail. English dealers also report more dissatisfaction with the dealer life, more pressure to quit from others, and a considerably greater fear of getting hurt—either by irrational customers or by gangsters cutting in on the business.

Reflecting on changes in dealing since they have been in the business, English dealers more than California ones comment on the growth of addiction and movement to hard drugs, on undesirable personality changes in dealers (egotism and avarice in particular), and on social changes such as a shift from earlier values and a growing inability for themselves to earn a living outside of trafficking in drugs. Economic considerations appear stronger in the English sample, for they emphasize that they can make more money dealing than in other work. Americans less often see dealing as the only way to earn money.

English dealers more than Americans include, among difficulties in leaving the life, obligations and fears associated with leaving an organization; that is, a fear of reprisal from organized criminals with whom they are in business. Americans, on the other hand, more often mention their need to remain dealing in order to maintain a supply of needed drugs for themselves. Should he stay in dealing and suffer as a result, the English dealer is less concerned than the American with hurting his family; he is, on the other hand, more concerned with the impact of misfortune arising from his dealing as it would hurt his girlfriend or wife. This may imply a greater peer-group value orientation among the English sample.

Reviewing developments in their careers, English more than California dealers comment on changes in their stock-in-trade, especially a shift from initial amphetamines and stimulants to hallucinogens and opiates and cocaine. Volume and profit differences are greater too for the English when the two total samples are compared. However, in dollar value the English dealers (even though more commercial from the start) made considerably less than American ones at the beginning of their dealing careers; even at the time of interview—when they have been in the trade a modal three to five years and report much increased profit—their profits are, on the average, only equal to American profits (in the $100- to $500-per-month range). English more than American dealers also report greater reliance over time on chemists as manufacturing sources and on other dealers for supplies. Their customers also have changed more during their dealing careers; strangers, casual acquaintances, and the "straight" becoming increasingly important as the English clientele. The diversity of the California sample again shows its effects in a wider distribution of customer ages in contrast to the English clientele; the Californians report both the youngest and the oldest customers. English customers are more often male and less often students than are Americans; those who do serve students in England are more likely to concentrate on university groups than are our California dealers, who serve lower educational levels. Compatible with the predominantly white characteristics of the English group, their customers are also more likely white. Habitual and regular users make up a greater portion of the English than American clientele.

In characterizing successful dealers, the English, unlike Americans, emphasize their "cool," inscrutable, careful nature and otherwise unflappable qualities—as opposed to the honest and trustworthy features prized by Californians. The English dealers also emphasize the prestige and admiration, the "ego trip" aspects of being a dealer. And English dealers are more likely to demean women as dealers, considering them paranoid and fearful, in contrast to more "sociological" judgments rendered by Americans in their attempts to explain the lesser frequency of dealing by women.

As for drugs considered incompatible with dealing, the English more often mention hallucinogens; Californians, amphetamines. The English specify amphetamines as a class of drugs which dealers can safely use and still conduct business, in contrast to Americans' opposite views. When asked about the general effects of drugs, the London dealers emphasize euphoria and awareness (produced mainly by cannabis and the hallucinogens) and "activity" (produced by amphetamines); the California dealers, in contrast, emphasize depression as a major effect of drugs. The bad effects of opiates are singled out more by the English dealers. Speaking of bad effects, the English emphasize the internal psychological side; Americans are attentive to external ones—in this case, arrest and imprisonment as consequences of use. On the other hand, Americans more than the English sample are in favor of a "stoned society."

Examining the activities of the two groups, we find that the English dealers report more street dealing, wholesaling, and marketing work; the Americans report more farming and manufacturing and, in general, more organizational complexity, specialization, and working agreements. English dealers more often report problems in securing supplies. The English dealers prefer to sell in London and to be in London. They prefer to buy in Central Asia (Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) and in Africa, whereas Americans obtain their supplies in Mexico, the Near East, and the Far East. English drug deals are on a smaller scale than American ones, with the dramatic exception of hashish; and their lifelong profits are clustered in the low $1,000-to$5,000 bracket. The modal English hashish deal reported by those trafficking in it is in the two-kilo to ten-kilo range.

Comparing their drug police, the English more often than Americans think of theirs as stupid and simpleminded in contrast to the egalitarian "they're like everyone else" American view. Local narcotics police are more derided for incompetence and the national "drug squad" more praised for skill than are their American counterparts. On the other hand, English more often than American dealers describe the ordinary police officer as "doing his job"; and the latter more often emphasize the self-righteous position of the American officer. As for direct experience with the police, more of the English dealers have suffered a drug arrest, but fewer have served time for drug offenses than have Americans. (There is no difference in the rate of nondrug offenses, which about half of both samples have experienced.) The California dealers more than the London ones admit to carrying a weapon (although 12 per cent of the London dealers do carry a gun). The English dealers less often file income tax returns and much more frequently break laws "for pleasure." The English believe, more than Americans do, that they are known to the police. Somewhat less often than Americans they describe themselves as professional criminals.

Evaluating the scene, today's versus yesterday's, the English dealers stress the greater present economic opportunities and the presence of gangsters and organized crime. Americans emphasize the greater involvement of youth, the greater variety of drugs, and the increase in gun toting.

In personal expectations and preferences, the English lean to the fine arts and the Americans to professions and business in the choice of straight jobs; the Americans lean to business and vocational courses in school and the English to social sciences. In national politics the English sample is more uninvolved or nihilistic, often denying the acceptability of any candidate (for Prime Minister).

As for background and status, the English more often come from Protestant families, report poorer present health and more worries over alcoholism, did not enjoy elementary or high school, felt disliked by teachers, were truant, have few friends, enjoy fast cars, do not have stable heterosexual relations, dislike the idea of settling down, and are impulsive spenders. The Americans owe larger amounts of money, although more of the English are in debt. The Americans require a much larger income to maintain their living standard. The English would be the more permissive as parents, more often allowing their children cannabis, speed, and hallucinogens (but, like Americans, the majority would not want their children to be dealers).

In self-description the Americans more often are keyed to the Protestant ethic; the English to the romantic one: unsure, searching, and roving. In contrast, the Americans more often are antagonistic to drug laws, calling for their abolition; the London sample—arguing for the retention of drug laws—emphasize medical-psychiatric disposition of users identified as having drug problems. The English, however, more often contend that present laws are unfairly enforced—not, as Americans say, because of their harshness but because the laws are egalitarian and do not provide for different handling for different people. Perhaps their more general support for drug laws as such accounts for the greater stated willingness of London dealers to pitch in and help control drug use themselves, particularly addicting substances. Asked what they wanted us to recommend, the English dealers more than Americans emphasize education.

In the rating section (keeping in mind that no reliability training for raters was conducted) the English dealers are rated, in contrast to the California sample, as more casual, long haired, clean, and well cared for, slowed in their responses, confused, and unreliable. Americans are more often seen as angry.

Comment and Summary

A sample of ninty-six English dealers was identified by Release workers, an English legal-aid and social-assistance group operated in London by concerned young people. The London dealers are, in most ways, like the California sample of 480 dealers with which they are compared. Teen-age use and dealing, multiple-drug use with emphasis on hallucinogens, histories of drug and nondrug arrests, the development of business styles, and the immersion of dealing in the larger social context of drugs and with other delinquency—including the growth for some of violence—are observed in both samples.

Both groups believe that drugs are good things for people, and that what they do—as dealers—is morally right. Both English and American samples get psychological as well as social and economic gratifications from dealing. Dealing is part of a life in which drug use is central but where both dealing and use are social activities. Money is not the only aim in trafficking. English and American dealers are a "special" population—not only because they are dealers and delinquents but also because of their history of school, work, and family problems. Most are not—as far as our limited data allow us to estimate—madmen, drug slaves, or otherwise mythical creatures.

The average English dealers seen here do, on the other hand, differ from our average young American dealers in becoming more quickly commercial, less sociable, and experiencing faster and, we suspect, more jolting movement from middle-class straight family life to a criminal underworld. The differences observed between London and California dealers may be refined if we link them to our earlier analysis of American dealer subgroups and then draw some parallels. For example, the average English dealer in this sample is clearly like the American psychedelic dealers, serious or "sometime" in his preference for drugs and his stock-in-trade. He is not like the American lower-class opiate-using loser or experienced criminal who is deeply involved in addiction, and despair. He is like the American big-time dealer (cool and hip) in his commercialization and reduced drug sociability except that he is not the big-money success that the American big dealer is, and does not have the immunity from the law, or the comparative freedom from fear or danger, which the American's immersion in middle-class psychedelic dealing provides.

The average London dealer has some characteristics which strike us as peculiarly "un-American"; that is, as conforming to at least a stereotype of the British and their styles of doing business. We shall list these now—putting in parentheses the differences which suggest the characterization. We cannot be sure at this point whether our list reflects only our own stereotypes, whether it does tell us only something about the English sample, or whether it might be generalized to other English dealers. We simply offer our speculations for critical testing by others. The following English features strike us as generally (culturally) different from Californians:

controlled emotion (cooler, more disinterested)
male dominance (fewer women dealers, customers, more personal demeaning of female business competence)
more stable, less pathogenic families
delayed heterosexuality (more same-sex initiation, use, sales)
less opportunity for financial gain (drugs cost less, bring less profit even for serious dealers, although drug sales offer more earning potential than other available jobs)
difference in drug availability (hashish over marijuana)
less intimacy in social contact (more drug initiations and use in public places, less use in homes, more sales to strangers)
different business methods; specifically, less organization and less reliance on honesty and trust (an American small business ethic)
less evidence of a heroin-using, addicted, alcoholic, gun-toting slum-style user-dealer
more psychological "push" within the drug-using population for activity rather than tranquility, for "uppers" rather than "downers"—in contrast to the American theme (see Blum, 1971)
more personal romanticism and less commitment to the Protestant
ethic (in self concepts, vocational interests, vocational goals)
greater attention to inner experience and internal or psychological determinants of behavior (inner-directed privatism) in contrast to American "extraversion" "other-directedness" (Riesman et al., 1953), and environmental-sociological explanations for one's own or others' conduct.
different preferences in international drug trafficking—sources in Asia or Africa as opposed to American buying in the Middle East and Mexico.
lesser English zeal for revolutionary or antiauthority ideology and social reform (more acceptance of cops, drug laws, and less approval of a stoned society than in their American counterparts).
more individual rebellion and greater individual movement away from straight institutions (breaking laws for fun, less peer involvement, coming from straighter families, more rejection of any candidates as offering political solutions, more removed from adult approval, more truancy)
less egalitarian in viewpoint (wanting laws to be applied unequally), greater emphasis on inferiority in those disliked (such as drug police)
drug dealing as more often a genuine career path for loners than as an expression of one kind of (awkward) American sociability (fewer friends, less immersion of dealing in friendship context, more emphasis on private than on social facilitation in drug effects)
more support for the law as such; greater internalization of rule by law (more support for drug laws, approval of ordinary police, more fear of arrest and jail even though shorter sentences have been meted out)
less dealer involvement with the very young and, presumably, less prevalence of drug experimentation in lower grades; that is, drug use is concentrated among deviants or older youth, for example school leavers or university students (Wiener, 1970)—(fewer young customers; fewer students among customers; when students are customers, they are in university)

The foregoing are possibilities to be examined in a cross-cultural study of young English versus American drug dealers in relationship to their cultural milieu.

We call attention to the greater shift on the part of those English with 'origins in the middle- and upper-class straight families to the rough-tough drug underworld. Unlike the middle-class American who may experience but little that is new and shocking as a dealer, the London well born dealer, we infer, is more likely thrown into a new and uglier world. This circumstance leads us to ask if, for the British, this new class of profit-hungry, gangster involved, skilled, well educated, self controlled, prestigeful (both in family background and peer evaluation) youth may not pose something of a serious crime problem should their present drug dealing incomes—which are by American standards low—be seen by them as insufficient. Might these potentially competent offenders move out of the drug scene into other crime, for example robbery? We wonder if it may not be a signal of a major shift in English values and crime potentials, that 12 per cent of the London sample carry a gun. The trends suggested by the reports of gangsterism and violence do not bode well for keeping the English peace.

In this regard, we hark back to the complaint of the London underground press about the Americanization of dealing with its gangsterism and violence. The underground press was certainly sensitive to the experiences of the English dealers as here reported. Whether it is properly blamed on Americans is something historians can decide; what we suggest is, given the departure of these young Englishmen from the standards of their own family and society, that the roots of their rebellion and criminalization as well as their creative unusualness (referring to other aspects of the youth scene) are internal, not imports. That is to say, British family and social life must itself have the potentials for creating these phenomena even if the "model" is borrowed from Jesse James, Al Capone, Tim Leary, or (an export-reimported) Aldous Huxley. That these potentials for generating drug delinquency are less than those found in the United States is strongly suggested by comparing the prevalence of heroin use, violence, street delinquency, and the like.

1 Except where otherwise indicated, all maximum penalties refer to conviction on indictment. After summary conviction, the maxima are substantially less. There are no minimum penalties. A typical penalty for a first offense of possession of a small quantity of any illegal drug might be a fine of £25 ($60) on summary conviction. A dealer, if arrested in the course of a small commercial transaction (involving, say £100 ($240) worth of drugs) with a stranger, might expect to be tried on indictment and sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. The 1971 Act is not expected to affect this. The actual sentence would, of course, vary considerably with the circumstances of the offense and the court trying the case.


Our valuable member Richard Blum has been with us since Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

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