Tempting Facades of the Cannabinoid Market on the Russian Darknet: Designing Quality as the Key to Social Normalization of Demand

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Elena Berdysheva
Danila Nedikov


The article discusses the problem of sociopolitical control over the market for illicit psychoactive substances (PAS) on the Russian darknet in light of the needs that this market, on the one hand, promises to satisfy and, on the other hand, constructs itself, stimulating consumption communities. The transformation of goods into market commodities is conceptualized as a social process. Market intermediaries sharply detect the deficits and consumers’ cultural attitudes and, relying on them, firstly, normalize the demand for their product and, secondly, invest in the development of consumer capital, which helps buyers make informed choices even where the quality of market product is uncertain, unpredictable, and hard to assess prior to consumption. To reconstruct and evaluate the marketing efforts of online stores selling illicit substances, the article analyzes 1,000 descriptions of products available on the cannabinoid market, collected using the parsing method from an online marketplace on the Russian darknet, as well as consumer reviews of these products. The article demonstrates that the shadow market for natural surfactants normalizes its product by categorizing it as a natural medicine that allows consumers to influence their physical and psychological conditions not just for individual hedonistic purposes but to achieve positive social effects. Cannabinoid products are marketed as a source of new experiences that contribute to self-knowledge, creativity, emancipation, and substantive interaction with other people. In a medicalized society of emotions, the consumer is offered the image of a taster and gourmet, able to appreciate the results of the art of cannabis growing.

Article in Russian


Darknet, Marijuana, Drugs, Marketization, Valuation, Marketing

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