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Qualitative Study of Ecstasy Sellers in the San Francisco Bay Area

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2004
128 pages
This study employed the use of qualitative interviews to explore the nature of selling of Ecstasy in San Francisco.
The relationship between buyers and sellers of Ecstasy differs from other drug distribution relationships and challenges the current knowledge on drug distribution. The current study employed a snowball sampling technique to interview 80 Ecstasy sellers in San Francisco concerning the nature of dealing Ecstasy. Informants had sold or exchanged five or more doses five or more times during the 6 months prior to the interview. Ecstasy dealers were predominantly White males in their twenties who tended to have middle or upper-middle class backgrounds. Almost all sellers had used Ecstasy prior to becoming a dealer. Informants resisted the term “dealer” in favor of labels such as “service providers” or “facilitators.” Informants knew little of where their Ecstasy came from or how it was priced and, unlike cocaine and marijuana dealers, selling Ecstasy did not increase the dealers’ use of the drug. Friendships between dealers and sellers kept most dealers in business and protected them from thefts, violence, and police intervention. Over half of the dealers expressed a desire to “grow up” and stop dealing Ecstasy because of the risks inherent to the activity. Some informants and their buyers expressed an interest in diminishing their Ecstasy use in favor of powder cocaine, stating that cocaine was less time consuming and did not have the immediate deleterious effects of Ecstasy. The results indicate that the unique friendship-based relationship between dealers and sellers of Ecstasy and the sporadic nature of the drug transactions present a serious challenge to traditional law enforcement intervention. Table, references

Date Published: March 1, 2004