If small-time drug dealer shadh1 had purchased his drugs from Australians, his jail term would be less than half what he received.
As a drug dealer, shadh1 was really really bad at his job. One of the key performance indicators is an ability to stay off the radar of law enforcement authorities, who are obliged to arrest and prosecute people who sell drugs to other people when they find out it’s happening.
Shadh1 failed miserably at the whole stealth thing. He allowed customers to pass on his phone number to complete strangers for the purposes of ordering drugs, kept every single incriminating text message ever sent or received and left all the paraphernalia that screams ‘drug dealer’ strewn around his house. He ordered drugs to his home address and his own name from countries from which mail is known to be more heavily scrutinised. When twelve pieces of mail went missing, he just kept ordering more – to the same name and the same address – without stopping to wonder what happened to the ones that never showed. He created a vendor account on the most famous online black market in the world, choosing an unusual username – the only other place it could be found was on his BMW’s numberplate.
So it wasn’t altogether surprising that he got busted 6 months into his new career.
He pleaded guilty to two charges of importing a marketable quantity of a controlled substance (MDMA and cocaine in a total of 11 packages) and one charge of trafficking (encompassing MDMA, cocaine, LSD, speed, ice and weed).
He received a sentence of:
- 2.5 years on the ‘importing a marketable quantity’ charges, and
- 18 months on the trafficking charge (to begin when the above sentence has 6 months to go),
- for a total of 3.5 years (non-parole period of 1 year 9 months).
Putting aside the fact that the definition of ‘marketable quantity’ is a joke (half a gram of MDMA or 2 grams of cocaine* ‘marketable’?), there is a bit of an incongruity here. He got a longer sentence for buying the drugs than he did for selling them.
If shadh1 had sourced his drugs locally instead of importing them from overseas, he would only have been charged with the trafficking offences.
Shadh1 was a fairly small time dealer in the grand scale of things. He dealt to end-users, supplementing his job as a bouncer and certainly didn’t seem to be making much money (the prosecution described the BMW as old and decrepit, not worth impounding). He was the guy you could buy a single pill from for your night out or a bag of 10 to share with your mates. There are thousands just like him, operating every weekend.
Now here’s how it usually goes: Dealers of Shadh1’s size source their drugs from medium-sized dealers. Medium-sized dealers source their drugs from bigger medium-sized dealers, who in turn source their drugs from large dealers. Large dealers source their drugs directly from the organised crime groups who import very large amounts of drugs into Australia, often with the assistance of corrupt people in positions of convenience to facilitate importation.
That’s a string of middlemen in Australia (ranging from That Shady Guy up the Street to The Person They Make Underbelly Series’ About) that shadh1 had bypassed by ordering his small quantities directly from overseas.
So if shadh1 had supported the chain in Australia, he would have had an 18-month sentence instead of a 3.5 year sentence. By cutting out these guys and doing the job that would normally be handled by the top echelon of organised crime (albeit on a one-thousandth of the scale), he’s added two years to his time.
The laws are what they are and there are (usually very good) reasons for all of them, but it seems to me there has been an anomalous consequence of this one. If you take out the fact that shadh1 was a dealer, a person ordering a single gram of MDMA for their personal use – enough for two weekends of partying – faces the same penalty**, even though they have cut out all middlemen in Australia.
There is, I suppose, the argument that the small-time importers increase the overall amount of illegal drugs crossing into our borders and this may be legitimate, but I would think at some point the law of supply and demand would kick in. Also, in handing down the sentence, the judge said that general deterrence was an important consideration (and no doubt many Aussies are now rethinking importing their weekend party drugs) and that the use of the ‘internet’ added a level of ‘sophistication’ to the operation.
But the fact is, a guy with no priors, who the judge described as having excellent rehabilitation prospects and who was described by a psychologist as being desperate for admiration from his peers, is now facing a very long time in jail, partly because he chose not to buy local. There was no evidence of lives being ruined or people being hurt – the text messages made it clear people sought him out for their party drugs.
The other fact is, if instead of prohibition we had a policy of legislate, regulate, educate, Shadh1 would not have had a business and would not be in jail at taxpayers’ expense.
At the very least, the absurd quantities of border-controlled drugs that are deemed ‘marketable amounts’ should be revised to something approaching reality.
* shadh1 imported considerably more than the minimum marketable quantities
** actually, in reality, that person would probably get a fine. But they are still committing the same crime that carries a 25 year imprisonment maximum.