AUSTRALIAN drug takers are using online social networks to compare prices for heroin, ice, cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana.
This lets them "shop around" as if they were buying legal consumer goods.
The secretive online forums are run according to strict guidelines and come with a warning to users not to incriminate themselves by admitting to possessing or selling drugs.
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The discussions provide an underground snapshot of the local drugs markets - and how they compare to those overseas - with recent threads revealing:
. AUSTRALIA is one of the most expensive markets for illegal drugs in the world
. BRISBANE is the most expensive city in the country for speed, ice, cocaine and LSD
. ADELAIDE users pay less than those in other capital cities for cannabis, cocaine and ice
. SYDNEY appears to be the cheapest market for ecstasy and speed.
As well as forensic discussions of pricing, one thread offers a critique of the pills produced by Underbelly's Carl Williams and another Melbourne identity and recalls private anecdotes from the times.
"They made the STTEST pills in Melbourne," one user said. "The pills Carl made were ( methamphetamine ) and ketamine. ( The associate's ) were often pink or red foxes, Carl's varied."
These self-described "harm minimisation" forums have been discussing price variations with their international counterparts for several years.
How it works
The rules at the start of the price thread state:
"1 ) PRICES ONLY - No comments about how "you're paying too much for that" or "damn, where you get that hookup?"
"2 ) NO DK-SIZING- You might have a really good hookup, or you might not, so post about how you get ecstasy pills for $2 each - you're not impressing anyone, and NO ONE will even reply to you - why? See rule #1
"3 ) BE REALISTIC - don't post "I get 75,000 pills for about $3 each" - - the price may be right but no one who is doing that kind of volume needs to inquire about prices here.
"4 ) DO NOT INCRIMINATE YOURSELF OF ANY ILLEGAL ACTIVITY -remember, this is what you would pay for drugs. DO NOT ADMIT TO POSSESSING OR SELLING.
"5 ) USE ACCURATE LANGUAGE - Post in terms we ALL KNOW - it's not a "jar" or a "sack" or a "quarter" or a "lick" or a "wrap" - if you use such terms, then GIVE THE AMOUNT WITHIN."
What You Pay
In the first weeks of 2009, users from Australia, America, Britain, Canada, Finland, Germany and Argentina have already started updating drug prices from previous years.
The first local on this year's price thread - a user identified only as "drug mentor" - has posted: "Yeah, first Aussie to get in on 2009 ! I'm in Melbourne Australia.
"Weed ( $ )15-20=Gram, 40-50=3 Gram, 70-90=Quarter, 130-150=Half bag, 200-250 g. "Speed 50=2.5 Points, 100=Half gram, 180-200=Gram, 500-550 8Ball.
"Ice 100=2.5 Points, 200=Half gram, 400= Gram. "Heroin 50="Street cap" I assume around a point, not sure though. "Ecstasy 20-25 a pill, 100-120=5 pills, 160-180 pills, 900-10000 pills. "GHB 3.50-5 a mil.
"I know prices for other st but that's all I have been quoted on in 2009, I post more detailed prices in 2008 thread and for the most part they haven't changed."
A Belgian user said he was shocked to see how relatively costly buying illegal drugs in Australia was.
"Wow . those Aus prices keep shocking me," the man posted.
"Does it really cost that much to import those drugs across the water, or are there only a few big players that dominate the market and set the prices? Maybe because of harsh penalties?"
A drug user in Melbourne responded that Australia's border security is much tighter than other countries: "I'd say it has something to do with us being an island and having extremely tight customs and border control.
"I've heard we have some of the most tightest in the world, so obviously the distributors on the higher end of the chain, or the people that are responsible for 'transporting' the drugs to over here, are going to charge a pretty hefty surcharge for the hassle.
"Also, the fact that our country isn't anywhere near as heavily populated as United Kingdom, or The United States means that the demand isn't as great, therefore not being as much bulk as say, what there would be in America, etc..."
The Australian forum member went on to detail the prices for illegal drugs in their suburb.
Nationally, users report increases in the price of a 3.5g bag of cannabis in recent years, while the amount paid for a "point" - or 0.1g - of ice has fallen.
The cost of ecstasy pills in Adelaide and Melbourne fell by $5 in the first half of 2008, while prices increased slightly in Sydney and stayed stagnant in Brisbane.
But not all prices in every capital city have been updated on a constant basis.
In Perth, users have reported paying a similar amount for cannabis in 2008 that buyers in other cities have. But only limited information on other drugs has been uploaded by West Australians in recent years.
Despite the unusual subject matter the forums seem to have the same logistical concerns as other moderators of user comments:
"This is 'the format'. I encourage you to follow this and you may add comments as long as they are relevant.
"Don't tell us how much you pay for seven pounds of raw Asian Heroin, keep it on the average level for this board."