The illegal drug trade or drug trafficking is a global black market consisting of the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of illegal controlled drugs. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs by drug control laws.
Some drugs, notably alcohol and tobacco, are outside the scope of these laws, but may be subject to control under other laws. The illicit drug trade operates similarly to other underground markets. The chain ranges from low-level street dealers who may be individual drug users themselves that rival governments in size.
Various drug cartels specialize in the separate processes along the supply chain, often localized to maximize production efficiency and minimize damages caused by law enforcement. Depending on the profitability of each layer, cartels usually vary in size, consistency, and organization.
The common characteristic binding these production locations is that they are discreet to avoid detection, and thus they may be located in any ordinary setting without raising notice. Much illegal drug cultivation and manufacture takes place in developing nations, although production also occurs in the developed world.