Skip to main content


Published onMay 29, 2020

My drug-related papers are mostly about predation and social control, both preventive and reactive, among sellers of illicit substances or, in the case of coffeeshops, semi-illegal cannabis. I've also written about other drug-related issues, such as how, where, and at what price people sell drugs, as well as drinking by and policing of college students.

Drug Policy, Normalization & Symbolic Boundaries

Dickinson, Timothy. In press. Drug Control Policy, Normalization, and Symbolic Boundaries in Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops. British Journal of Criminology.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: This study examines the relationship between drug control policy, normalization, and symbolic boundary work among drug traders. Taking from interviews with 50 personnel in Amsterdam’s coffeeshops, we find that Dutch drug policy shapes their understanding of what comprises morally acceptable drug use and sales. Conversely, the rules set by the state also guide personnel’s definitions of what is morally unacceptable: using hard drugs or committing predatory crimes. To normalize their own involvement with cannabis, personnel must identify potential rule-breakers and criminals. To do so, they construct symbolic boundaries differentiating themselves from these persons. We conclude by discussing the theoretical implications of our findings for normalization and symbolic boundaries and by suggesting a potential negative secondary impact of cannabis decriminalization or legalization: the further marginalization of hard drug users.

Coffeeshops, Victimization & Police Mobilization

Moeller, Kim, and Scott Jacques. In press. Amsterdam's Coffeeshops, Victimization, and Police Mobilization. Policing & Society.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Police mobilization is a first step in the judicial process and an important source of information on offending. Whether victims mobilize police is affected by their assessment of its utility. Victims who are criminals, such as drug dealers, are known to face a different costbenefit scenario than law-abiding persons. Dutch ‘coffeeshops’ are a unique type of dealer. They operate in a grey area, allowed by the government to sell a prohibited drug, cannabis, so long as they comply with a set of regulations. Little is known about their mobilization of police in response to victimization, including how it is affected by the rules governing their business. We explore this issue with qualitative data collected from personnel of 50 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We analyze how they think about the potential benefits and costs of asking the police for help post victimization. In many ways, their thought process is similar to that of most any victim, but they also consider the potential negative ramifications of inviting police to their door. We conclude by discussing the implications for future research, regulation and drug control broadly, and coffeeshops specifically.

Drug Sellers’ Neutralizations

Dickinson, Timothy, and Scott Jacques. 2019. Drug Sellers' Neutralizations of Guiltless Drug Sales and Avoidance of "Drug Dealer" Identities. International Journal of Drug Policy 73:16-23.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Background: Despite a wealth of empirical exploration on neutralization theory, several aspects of the theory remain underexplored. For instance, one task of neutralization research is to investigate whether and how neutralizations vary with offender characteristics. A second underexplored area is whether the neutralizations offenders present when directly asked about feelings of guilt are similar or dissimilar to those they have incorporated into their narrative identities described during interviews. A third underexplored issue is whether offenders that exhibit little guilt for committing mala prohibita crimes use neutralizations in a similar manner as those who do not express guilt for committing mala in se crimes. Methods: The present study examines these questions by drawing from data collected from interviews with 33 active drug sellers from St. Louis, Missouri, USA and 30 active drug sellers from Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Results: We find that these offenders’ neutralizations vary by drug type and by differential access to resources. We also find that, in addition to the neutralizations they give when asked about guilt, these offenders also preemptively neutralize feelings of guilt by constructing identities counter to bad “drug dealers” throughout their storied identities. Conclusion: We conclude by suggesting that neutralizations vary by offender characteristics due to the differing background expectancies of offenders’ social groups. We also suggest that neutralizing the repercussions of immoral actions is not always a static, monothematic technique. It is instead an active, complex, and interactional process that occurs as persons make sense of who they are and what they are doing. Finally, we argue that studies of neutralization theory relying on direct, standardized questions or the presentation of abstract vignettes may fail to capture a sizable part of the neutralization process among offenders.

Relevance of Pleasure to Drug-Involved Pain

Jacques, Scott. 2019. Bentham, Not Epicurus: The Relevance of Pleasure to Studies of Drug-Involved Pain. Journal of Drug Issues 49:118-138. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: There is a disproportionate focus on pain over pleasure in policy-relevant research on drugs. This is unfortunate because theories of and findings on drug-involved pleasure can be used to inform knowledge of drug-involved pain. The cross-fertilization of theories and findings is bolstered by the availability of a conceptual framework that links drug-involved pain and pleasure in a comprehensive, powerful, simple, and instrumental manner. This article proposes such a framework. It consists of four types of drug-involved pain and pleasure: drug-specific corporal, drug-related corporal, economic, and social. This quaternary scheme is illustrated with findings from four literatures, namely, those on methamphetamine use, alcohol-related sexual contact among college students, resource transfer among drug users and dealers, and relational and communal issues related to drugs. The article concludes with implications for the field.

Negative Evidence & Racial Discrimination by Police

Jacques, Scott. 2017. “A Run-In with the Cops is Really Few and Far Between”: Negative Evidence and Ethnographic Understanding of Racial Discrimination by Police. Sociological Focus 50:7-17.​ 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Statistics show that blacks are subjected to disproportionately more policing than whites, and more often interpret their encounters with police as affected by racial discrimination. The ethnographic evidence supports the numbers, but this body of work, I suggest, has been too focused on blacks’ experiences with prejudicial policing. A fruitful but largely unexplored way to advance the ethnographic study of police discrimination is to collect and analyze data from the group receiving preferential treatment from officers: whites. In practice, this often involves collecting and analyzing nonevents, such as not being stopped by police. This article’s purpose is to outline and illustrate the benefits and difficulties of such research by drawing on Lewis and Lewis’s 1980 typology of “negative evidence” and findings from my study of 30 white drug dealers.

Prohibition, Decriminalization & Drug Market Conflict

Jacques, Scott, Richard Rosenfeld, Richard Wright, and Frank van Gemert. 2016. The Effects of Prohibition and Decriminalization on Drug Market Conflict: Comparing Street Dealers, Coffeeshops, and Cafés in Amsterdam. Criminology & Public Policy 15:843-875. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Research Summary: To reduce individual and social harms, most nations prohibit certain psychoactive drugs. Yet, prior scholarship has suggested that prohibition reduces illicit drug sellers’ access to law and thereby increases predation against and retaliation by them. No prior study, however, has directly tested that theory by comparing drug sellers of different legal statuses operating in a single place and time. This study analyzes rates of victimization, legal mobilization, and violent retaliation in three retail drug markets in Amsterdam, the Netherlands: the legally regulated alcohol trade of cafés, the decriminalized cannabis market of “coffeeshops,” and the illegal street drug market. Results from interviews conducted with 50 sellers in each market indicate, as expected, that illicit drug dealers have the highest rates of victimization and violent retaliation and the lowest rates of legal mobilization. Contrary to expectations, we find coffeeshops experience less victimization than cafés and have similar rates of violent retaliation and legal mobilization. Policy Implications: Our findings suggest that state regulation of drug markets affects victimization and conflict management of sellers, but the relationship does not seem to be linear. Prohibition undercuts the state's regulatory capacity by producing zones of virtual statelessness in which formal means of dispute resolution are unavailable, and thus, victimization and retaliation are more common. At the other extreme is laissez faire regulation, which may make sellers more likely to address problems only after they occur (instead of preventing their occurrence). The Dutch government originally instituted coffeeshops as a harm‐reduction method meant to separate the market for cannabis from that of hard drugs. The policy also seems to work well when it comes to reducing victimization, perhaps by encouraging the use of preventive measures by coffeeshop owners and employees. The Dutch experience offers lessons for drug policy reforms elsewhere.

Where Dealers Solicit Customers & Sell Drugs

Bernasco, Wim, and Scott Jacques. 2015. Where Do Dealers Solicit Customers and Sell Them Drugs? A Micro-Level Multiple Methods Study. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 31:376-408. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: According to a rational choice theory of crime location choice, offenders commit crimes at locations where the mix of expected rewards and costs is optimal. The present study applied this general theory to a very specific crime—illicit drug dealing in an open air drug market—and tested it in the Red Light District and its neighboring area in downtown Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Data were collected in interviews with 50 dealers of illicit drugs and through systematic observations of the 262 street segments in the study area. It was expected that dealers prefer locations where expected earnings relative to invested time and effort is high and where the risk of apprehension is low. The quantitative findings seem to confirm that dealers go to places where the likelihood of successfully soliciting customers is high, but no evidence is found that they avoid places with informal or formal social control. Qualitative data collected in the same interviews reveal that dealers view social control as a nuisance and risk that can be evaded. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for criminological theory and research methods.

Drug Market Violence

Jacques, Scott, and Andrea Allen. 2015. Drug Market Violence: Virtual Anarchy, Police Pressure, Predation, and Retaliation. Criminal Justice Review 40:187-199. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Drug consumption and addiction are known to increase the incidence of violent and property crimes. For this reason, governments prohibit the trade in some psychoactive substances and vigorously enforce the law. The unfortunate consequence of this governmental control is that it increases drug market violence. This article examines how drug prohibition and its enforcement affect violence among illicit drug traders. Two processes are considered: the role of virtual anarchy and police pressure in exposing illicit drug traders to predation and motivating them to retaliate. After reviewing the empirical literature bearing on these theories, this article concludes by outlining what is needed to move the field forward.

Global Marijuana Cultivation

Hogan, Charles, and Scott Jacques. 2015. Global Marijuana Cultivation and Societal Place Because and In Spite of American Policy and Perception. Chapter 3 in Handbook on Drugs and Society, ed. Henry Brownstein. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: This chapter presents a review of the legal and cultural path that marijuana has taken through the twentieth century and into the twenty‐first. From the ripple effect of early US criminalization, the start of global marijuana prohibition will begin to unfold under the influence of Americanized international policymaking. The chapter offers a snapshot of the integration of marijuana in US and international culture, legal definitions, and ethical policymaking going on today. It offers a realist view of the nature and effects on society and the cultural assimilation of a substance because of, and in spite of, legal restrictions. The chapter also describes what the place of marijuana is in the United States, and the rest of the world, moving forward. The public now sees a typical marijuana user as a typical American, showing homoscedasticity of demographic characteristics across most age, economic, and cultural groupings.

Drug Sales, Gifts & Frauds

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2014. A Sociological Theory of Drug Sales, Gifts, and Frauds. Crime & Delinquency 60:1057-1082.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: The transfer of drugs from one person to another does not always involve a fair sale. Gifts and frauds are also common. Although the rationality perspective has dominated and made important contributions to the study of drug transfer, this article proposes a new theory of drug sales, gifts, and frauds. The theoretical lens of pure sociology is used to find social structural patterns in qualitative data obtained from a study of middle- and lower class drug dealers. Based on that data, the authors suggest that the social status of drug procurers and their social distance from drug dealers affect (a) whether the transfer is a gift, sale, or fraud and (b) the size of the gift, the price of the sale, and the seriousness of the fraud. Implications for future research are discussed.

Drug Dealers, Retaliation & Deterrence

Jacques, Scott, Richard Wright, and Andrea Allen. 2014. Drug Dealers, Retaliation, and Deterrence. International Journal of Drug Policy 25:656-662.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Background Illicit drug sellers have limited access to formal mediation and therefore are rational targets to predators. As such, dealers are especially reliant on retaliation to deter victimization. Prior scholarship on dealers, retaliation, and deterrence has focused largely on general deterrence, or the effect of punishing one person on others. Research is yet to shed much light on other types of deterrence that dealers engage in. Methods This paper addresses that gap by drawing on qualitative data obtained in interviews with 25 unincarcerated drug sellers from disadvantaged neighborhoods in St. Louis, Missouri. Results We find that dealers’ use of retaliation is linked to four kinds of deterrence—general, specific, situational, and permeating—and that these are combined into three forms: namely, specific-situational; specific-permeating; and comprehensive (i.e., all four kinds simultaneously). Conclusion Implications for research, theory, and “criminal justice” are discussed. Specifically, we call for future scholarship to examine how each type of deterrence affects the others, and suggest that both predation against and retaliation by drug dealers might be reduced by granting them greater access to formal means of dispute resolution.

Durg Dealers’ Choices on Who to Rip-Off

Jacques, Scott, Andrea Allen, and Richard Wright. 2014. Drug Dealers’ Rational Choices on Which Customers to Rip-Off. International Journal of Drug Policy 25:251-256. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Drug dealers are infamous for overcharging customers and handing over less than owed. One reason rip-offs frequently occur is blackmarket participants have limited access to formal means of dispute resolution and, as such, are attractive prey. Yet drug dealers do not cheat every customer. Though this is implicitly understood in the literature, sparse theoretical attention has been given to which customers are ripped-off and why. To address that lacuna, this paper uses the rationality perspective to analyze qualitative data obtained in interviews with 25 unincarcerated drug sellers operating in disadvantaged neighborhoods of St. Louis, Missouri. We find that dealers typically rip-off six types of customers: persons who are strangers, first-time or irregular customers; do not have sufficient money on hand to make a purchase; are uninformed about going market rates; are deemed unlikely to retaliate; are offensive; or are addicted to drugs. Dealers target these groups due to perceiving them as unlikely to be repeat business; not worth the hassle of doing business with; unlikely to realize they are being ripped-off; in the wrong and thus deserving of payback; and, unwilling to retaliate or take their money elsewhere. Our findings are discussed in relation to their practical implications, including the importance of giving blackmarket participants greater access to law, and how customers may prevent being ripped-off.

Bentham’s Sanction Typology & Deterrence

Jacques, Scott, and Andrea Allen. 2014. Bentham’s Sanction Typology and Restrictive Deterrence: A Study of Young, Suburban, Middle-Class Drug Dealers. Journal of Drug Issues 44:212-230. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Restrictive deterrence is the process whereby offenders limit the frequency, magnitude, or seriousness of their offenses to avoid pain. Prior research on drug dealing and restrictive deterrence largely focuses on the effect of formal control, or political sanction. Bentham, however, suggests there are four other types of sanction that may deter offenses: moral, sympathetic, religious, and physical. This paper explores whether and how each sanction type restricts drug sales among a sample of 29 young, suburban, middle-class drug sellers. We conclude by discussing the usefulness of studying interconnections between the sanctions and by outlining the reasons to choose Bentham's sanction typology in future work.

How Victimized Drug Traders Mobilize Police

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2013. How Victimized Drug Traders Mobilize Police. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 42:545-575. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Illicit drug traders are more likely to be victimized because they cannot report crimes committed against them to the police. Their inability to access law is seen as a major precipitating factor in retaliatory violence. But, as we demonstrate, sometimes victimized drug traders do ask for formal mediation. Based on evidence from prior research combined with experiences recounted to us in the course of interviewing twenty-five unincarcerated drug dealers, we propose a typology of how this happens. We suggest that victimized drug traders mobilize the police in four conceptually distinct ways: “BSing”; getting over; criminal concealment; and criminal disclosure. Our typology provides the empirical grounding for future work aimed at theorizing this behavior and for reducing retaliatory violence by enhancing victimized criminals’ access to law. We conclude by discussing the relevance of our “inconvenient” results for the broader ethnographic audience.

Drug Dealing in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Jacques, Scott, and Wim Bernasco. 2013. Drug Dealing: Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Chapter 7 in Cognition and Crime: Offender Decision Making and Script Analyses, eds. Richard Wortley and Benoit Leclerc. London, UK: Routledge. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: None for this paper.

Allen, Andrea, and Scott Jacques. 2013. Alcohol-Related Crime among College Students: A Review of Research and Fruitful Areas for Future Work. Criminal Justice Studies 26:478-494.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: College and alcohol are a potent mix. This paper reviews what is known and unknown about college students’ involvement in alcohol-related crime as both offenders and victims. There are three types of alcohol-related crime: psychopharmacological; economic compulsive; and systemic. Research on college students, however, has focused entirely on the first type. Why are the latter two types untouched in the literature? After reviewing research on alcohol-involved psychopharmacological crime among college students, we address this question by drawing on Lewis & Lewis’ taxonomy of ‘negative evidence.’ We outline and assess reasons for the dearth of information on these topics, and draw on these explanations to suggest fruitful areas for future research.

Allen, Andrea, and Scott Jacques. 2013. Policing Alcohol-Related Crime among College Students. Chapter 15 in Campus Crime: Legal, Social, and Policy Perspectives, 3rd ed., eds. Bonnie S. Fisher and John J. Sloan. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: None for this paper.

Code of the Suburb and Drug Dealing

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2013. The Code of the Suburb and Drug Dealing. Chapter 20 in Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory, eds. Francis Cullen and Pamela Wilcox. New York: Oxford University Press.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: High rates of violence are characteristic of many urban drug markets because the individuals therein abide by a set of informal rules known as the code of the street. This code governs interpersonal conduct that emerges from the social circumstances found in various communities in America. Drug market participants who subscribe to this code view violence as a means to earn respect, status, and security. Not all drug markets are urban, how or exhibit high rates of violence, however. This is probably the reason why researchers have focused disproportionately on violent, inner-city drug markets to account for the conditions that facilitate violence in such environments. This article examines why there is a dearth of violence in drug markets in suburbs, focusing on the cultural context in which such markets operate. It first describes a study of twenty-five young suburban drug dealers before looking at the code of the suburb. It also assesses the code's impact on drug dealing, especially in relation to handling victimization, and concludes by highlighting the relevance of peace for understanding violence.

Offenders’ Perspective on Prevention

Jacques, Scott, and Danielle Reynald. 2012. The Offenders’ Perspective on Prevention: Guarding Against Victimization and Law Enforcement. Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency 49:269-294.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Law-abiding citizens are concerned with deterring and preventing crime. One strategy to accomplish this goal is to increase the costs and reduce the benefits that particular situations present to offenders. This form of crime control is known as situational crime prevention. Like law-abiding persons, offenders must concern themselves with being victimized. Differently, however, offenders must also worry about being detected and punished by formal agents. Thus, situational prevention from the offenders’ perspective is relatively complex, encompassing efforts to block not only opportunities for victimization but also for law enforcement. Building on the work of Clarke, the present study uses qualitative data from drug dealers to illustrate how and why offenders use situational strategies and techniques to evade their adversaries. The article concludes by discussing implications for future work.

Emergence & Evolution of Drug User Groups in UK

Bennett, Trevor, Scott Jacques, and Richard Wright. 2011. The Emergence and Evolution of Drug User Groups in the UK. Addiction Research & Theory 19:556-565.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: The aim of this article is to describe and explain the development of drug user groups in the UK and elsewhere by drawing on a case study of one of the earliest drug user association formed in England in 1983, known as the Drug Dependents’ Association. By way of context, a literature search was conducted to find other examples of original case studies of early drug user groups. The main method of investigating the case study arose out of the recovery of research materials by two of the authors which were used as part of another research project conducted in the early 1980s. The data collected comprised a full transcript of the first meeting of the group, agendas of all of the meetings and notes taken by the authors at the time. The analysis of the search material and the case study data indicates that drug user associations have change markedly since these early forms. The main changes include the integration of drug user groups into mainstream practice through the development of service user groups, a shift away from user-led to service-led organizations, as well as a change in focus from broader political campaigning towards the details of service provision.

Informal Control & Illicit Drug Trade

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2011. Informal Control and Illicit Drug Trade. Criminology 49:726-765. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Antidrug legislation and enforcement are meant to reduce the trade in illegal drugs by increasing their price. Yet the unintended consequence is an increase in informal control—including retaliation, negotiation, avoidance, and toleration—among drug users and dealers. Little existing theory or research has explored the connections between informal control and drug trading. This article uses the rational choice and opportunity perspectives to explore the question: How and why does the frequency and seriousness of popular justice—as a whole or for each form—affect the price and rate of drug sales? The proposed theory is grounded on and illustrated with qualitative data obtained from drug dealers. This article concludes by discussing the scholarly and policy implications.

Necessary Conditions for Retaliation

Jacques, Scott. 2010. The Necessary Conditions for Retaliation: Toward a Theory of Non-Violent and Violent Forms in Drug Markets. Justice Quarterly 27:186-205. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Research provides strong support for the theory that drug market participants are often involved in violent retaliation because they lack access to formal mediation. Yet retaliation is not always violent. The existing drug market literature offers few counts, estimates, or stories of non‐violent retaliation, and no single theory specifies the variable conditions that determine which form of retaliation occurs. This paper contributes to criminology by drawing on the necessary conditions perspective and qualitative data obtained from drug dealers to provide the conceptual and theoretical foundation for future criminological work, including the development of theories that explain variability in retaliatory forms, research that demonstrates whether any given theory is supported by data, and criminal justice policies that draw on theoretical and empirical knowledge to reduce all forms of drug market retaliation—violent and non‐violent.

Drug Law & Violent Retaliation

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2010. Drug Law and Violent Retaliation. Chapter 11 in Criminology and Public Policy: Putting Theory to Work, 2nd ed., eds. Hugh Barlow and Scott Decker. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: None for this paper.

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2008. The Victimization—Termination Link. Criminology 46:1009-1038. 

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: The life histories of drug dealers suggest that victimizations sometimes mark turning points toward the end of criminal careers, which is a criminologically important but neglected empirical connection that we label the “victimization–termination link.” We theorize this link thusly: When serious victimizations occur in the context of crime, a break from the customary provides an opportune situation for adaptation, and when victims have social bonds and agency, when they define the event as the result of their own criminal involvement, and when they find other adaptations unattractive, criminal‐victims are likely to adapt by terminating crime. We illustrate this desistance process with qualitative data obtained through interviews with young, middle‐class drug dealers. We conclude by exploring promising avenues for future work.

Relevance of Peace to Drug Market Violence

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2008. The Relevance of Peace to Studies of Drug Market Violence. Criminology 46:221–253.

Publisher version | Free version

Abstract: Goldstein's (1985) concept of systemic violence has contributed substantially to criminological thought and research, but its power can be enhanced by connecting it to a broader typology of social life: the resource exchange—social control typology. That typology connects systemic violence logically with two important yet neglected forms of drug market behavior: peaceful resource exchange and peaceful social control. This article, which is based on 50 in‐depth interviews with individuals involved actively or recently in drug selling, describes the various forms of violent and nonviolent resource exchange and social control in illicit drug markets, stating them in quantitative terms that are conceptually distinct and empirically observable. We conclude by discussing 1) the implications of peaceful behavior for a fuller understanding of violence and 2) the relevance of the resource exchange‐social control typology to criminological theory and research.


No comments here