By analysing the illegal drug markets of two major European cities, the project aims to fill a gap in European drug research. In fact, as the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) recently noted, drug market research is still underdeveloped in Europe. Though a few studies on local markets for a single drug were conducted, the focus has been on consumption patterns. The interplay of drug demand and supply is, instead, the main research object of the present project. Moreover, this does not concern a single drug, but analyses and compares the Frankfurt and Milan drug markets in their entirety. The first phase of the study, which lasted from October 1999 to September 2000, was funded by the EMCDDA. A final report was published. A second round of primary data collection will start in 2006. On this basis, the major trends of development of two cities’ drug markets will be reconstructed. A comparison with the drug markets of three other European cities is planned.

Il­leg­al drug mar­kets are an im­port­ant, though troub­ling, fa­cet of all ma­jor cit­ies: they in­volve thou­sands of young (and in­creas­ingly not-so-young) people either as sellers or cus­tom­ers and usu­ally con­sti­tute the largest com­pon­ent of the loc­al il­leg­al eco­nom­ies. However, as a re­cent re­view of the European Mon­it­or­ing Centre on Drugs and Drug Ad­dic­tion (EM­CDDA) proves, drug mar­ket re­search is still un­der­developed in Europe. Though a few stud­ies on loc­al mar­kets for a single drug (usu­ally heroin) were car­ried out, the fo­cus has largely been on con­sump­tion pat­terns, where­as the in­ter­play of de­mand and sup­ply has hardly been stud­ied yet.

Pro­ject Aims
By ana­lys­ing the il­leg­al drug mar­kets of two ma­jor European cit­ies, the pro­ject aims to fill a ser­i­ous gap in European drug re­search. Two traits dis­tin­guish it from the few, pre­vi­ous stud­ies car­ried out on il­leg­al drug mar­kets in Europe: its fo­cus on the in­ter­play of drug de­mand and sup­ply and its ana­lys­is of the Frank­furt and Mil­an drug mar­kets in their en­tirety.
The first phase of the study, which las­ted from Oc­to­ber 1999 to Septem­ber 2000, was fun­ded by the EM­CDDA. A fi­nal re­port was pub­lished. A second round of primary data col­lec­tion will start in 2006. On this basis, the ma­jor trends of de­vel­op­ment of two cit­ies il­leg­al drug mar­kets will be re­con­struc­ted. A com­par­is­on with the drug mar­kets of three oth­er European cit­ies is planned.

Pro­ject Meth­ods
A mul­ti­fa­ceted meth­od­o­logy was de­veloped for the first phase of the pro­ject and will be used in the second phase as well. This em­phas­ises qual­it­at­ive re­search in­stru­ments and aims to col­lect in­form­a­tion from as many dif­fer­ent per­spect­ives as pos­sible.
Dur­ing the first phase, the re­search teams in Frank­furt and Mil­an, which were com­posed be­sides Paoli by Ni­met Güller and Sal­vatore Pal­idda re­spect­ively, col­lec­ted first-hand in­form­a­tion from the four main act­ors of today‘s il­leg­al mar­kets: con­sumers, sup­pli­ers, law en­force­ment per­son­nel, as well as pub­lic and private drug treat­ment pro­viders. In par­tic­u­lar, dur­ing 1999 and 2000 the two re­search teams in­ter­viewed more than thirty law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, pub­lic drug treat­ment pro­viders, and rep­res­ent­at­ives of drug-re­lated NGOs in each of the two cit­ies. Ad­di­tion­ally, sev­enty drug users and sup­pli­ers were in­ter­viewed in Frank­furt and fifty-five in Mil­an. In or­der to ob­tain stand­ard­ised and com­par­able res­ults, a ques­tion­naire was de­veloped.
In ad­di­tion to all stand­ard sec­ond­ary sources, Paoli’s teams ana­lysed more than fifty drug-re­lated crim­in­al cases in each of the two cit­ies.

Pro­ject Status and Find­ings
The first phase of the pro­ject showed sur­pris­ing sim­il­ar­it­ies between the Frank­furt and Mil­an drug mar­kets. In both cit­ies, drug mar­kets seem to have evolved in par­al­lel ways, by and large fol­low­ing ana­log­ous time se­quences. The sim­il­ar­it­ies are most evid­ent on the de­mand side. In both cit­ies, the sub­stances pre­ferred by the users, the lat­ter‘s so­cial char­ac­ter­ist­ics and the mean­ings they at­tach to drug use seem to have evolved along roughly par­al­lel paths over the last thirty years.
At both sites, can­nabis and LSD spread dur­ing the late 1960s and early 1970s, fol­lowed by opi­ates and then heroin dur­ing the mid-1970s. While LSD dis­ap­peared from both cit­ies soon af­ter­wards, dur­ing the 1980s two large, par­al­lel drug mar­kets de­veloped: one for heroin and one for can­nabis. Dur­ing the 1990s, however, the po­lar­isa­tion of the il­leg­al drug mar­ket was shaken by the dif­fu­sion of sev­er­al new il­leg­al drugs. Some of them, such as ec­stasy, were in­deed en­tirely new. Oth­ers, such as co­caine, amphet­am­ines, and LSD, were largely re­dis­covered and/or be­came at­tract­ive to a wider pool of con­sumers. In both con­texts, the turn of the cen­tury re­cor­ded a strong dif­fu­sion of co­caine, which has be­come a “passe-par­tout” drug and is in­creas­ingly used by a wide-ran­ging spec­trum of people. Since the early 1990s, even crack co­caine has re­gistered a ver­it­able boom on the Frank­furt open drug scene. Long a pe­cu­li­ar­ity of Frank­furt, crack co­caine also be­came avail­able in Mil­an in the late 1990s.
The wider drug sup­ply has been par­alleled in both con­texts by the grow­ing di­ver­si­fic­a­tion of drug con­sumers. Today the lat­ter can no longer be de­scribed with ref­er­ence to a single cluster of demo­graph­ic, so­cial, and cul­tur­al char­ac­ter­ist­ics, nor can their drug use be ex­plained by re­fer­ring to one or few eco­nom­ic or so­cial vari­ables.
On the sup­ply side too, there are strik­ing sim­il­ar­it­ies. In both cit­ies, drug en­tre­pren­eurs of all kinds are sub­ject to the con­straints de­riv­ing from the il­leg­al status of the products they sell. These con­straints have so far pre­ven­ted the rise of large, hier­arch­ic­ally or­gan­ised firms to me­di­ate eco­nom­ic trans­ac­tions in the il­leg­al mar­ket­place. Even South­ern Itali­an mafia fam­il­ies, whose mem­bers were deeply in­volved in large drug deals in Mil­an dur­ing the 1980s and early 1990s, are sub­ject to the con­straints of il­leg­al­ity.
In Frank­furt as well as in Mil­an, the great ma­jor­ity of drug deals, even those in­volving large quant­it­ies of drugs, seem to be car­ried out by nu­mer­ous, re­l­at­ively small, and of­ten eph­em­er­al en­ter­prises. Some of them are fam­ily busi­nesses: that is, they are run by the mem­bers of a blood fam­ily, who re­sort on an ad hoc basis to non-kin people in or­der to carry out the most dan­ger­ous tasks. Some are ver­it­able non-kin groups, which are formed around a (cha­ris­mat­ic) lead­er and then man­age to ac­quire a cer­tain de­gree of sta­bil­ity and de­vel­op a rudi­ment­ary di­vi­sion of la­bour. Oth­ers are “crews”: loose as­so­ci­ations of people, which form, split, and come to­geth­er again as op­por­tun­ity arises.
Es­pe­cially at the in­ter­me­di­ate and lower levels, many deal­ers work alone, either to fin­ance their own drug con­sump­tion habits or, more rarely, to earn fast money. Most of these drug en­tre­pren­eurs have no con­tact what­so­ever with the un­der­world, but in­stead are of­ten in­con­spicu­ous per­sons, who can hardly be dis­tin­guished from “nor­mal” people.
In both cit­ies, the street drug mar­ket is largely dom­in­ated by for­eign deal­ers. With­in a few years a ver­it­able sub­sti­tu­tion pro­cess has taken place: the low­est and most dan­ger­ous po­s­i­tions, which used to be oc­cu­pied by the most mar­gin­al­ised Itali­an/Ger­man drug users, are now taken over by for­eign­ers, es­pe­cially those who have im­mig­rated re­cently, are ap­plic­ants for polit­ic­al asylum or do not have a res­id­ence per­mit.
Es­pe­cially dur­ing the 1980s, sev­er­al mafia and un­der­world drug deal­ing en­ter­prises op­er­at­ing in Mil­an tried to ex­er­cise mono­poly claims over the areas in which they were settled, ob­li­ging the loc­al in­ter­me­di­ate and street deal­ers to buy drugs from them. Non­ethe­less, neither in Mil­an nor in Frank­furt has a per­son or group ever suc­ceeded in con­trolling the city mar­ket for any il­leg­al sub­stance. The drug mar­kets of both cit­ies have al­ways been open mar­kets, in which any­body can try to earn his/her for­tune, selling, im­port­ing, or pro­du­cing drugs.
Giv­en this mar­ket struc­ture, it is no chance that the whole­sale and re­tail prices of all the main drugs – with the ex­cep­tion of can­nabis – have stead­ily de­creased in both con­texts. However, this de­cline has been ac­com­pan­ied by a com­par­able fall of pur­ity levels. Ap­par­ently fol­low­ing in­ter­na­tion­al trends, the prices for all the main il­leg­al sub­stances are strik­ingly sim­il­ar in both cit­ies, though slightly high­er in Mil­an than in Frank­furt.

Pro­ject Fund­ing
The first phase of the study, which las­ted from Oc­to­ber 1999 to Septem­ber 2000, was fun­ded by the EM­CDDA.