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Digital Marketplace: How to Buy Illegal Drugs Online

We’ve all seen the ads: Buy Viagra online without a prescription!

The daily messages invade your spam folder, selling Cialis, generic Zoloft, or herbal ecstasy with the whispered promise of doorstep delivery, after the simple click of a button.

Maybe erectile dysfunction isn’t your concern. Instead, marijuana or cocaine might be your drug of choice. There’s a way to buy any substance online. You just need to know where to look.

Digital marketplaces like Silk Road, Sheep Marketplace, Atlantis, Agora, and Black Market Reloaded once offered hundreds of vendors selling everything from illicit drugs, steroids, and weapons to ATM hacking guides, stolen credit cards, and even child pornography. As you might imagine, law enforcement is intensely interested in this network and has worked diligently to shut it down. And it’s working. Presently, every one of the sites named above has gone dark. While new sites have since popped up to meet demand – Deepbay, Pandora Market, Brainmagic and Silk Road II – they might vanish before you finish reading this story. One site, Utopia, was shut down after only days.

These sites only occupied a small corner of the “dark web,” visited by a few criminally minded miscreants, right? Think again. According to The Telegraph, the total trade values going through Silk Road were reportedly up to $1.2 billion. The shadowy site earned the nickname “Amazon of Drugs.” Interested users need to sign up on the anonymity network Tor. Tor uses complicated algorithms to disguise the unique IP address of each computer. And visitors will be glad to know that Tor recently released an easier-to-use browser.

The Good and Bad News About Digital Marketplaces

“The marketplace was a veritable smorgasbord: marijuana, cocaine, meth, ecstasy, psychedelics, benzos, and even heroin were available.”
First the good news: Sites like Silk Road and Black Market Reloaded allowed buyers to choose from hundreds of sellers with thousands of varying products. For security purposes, all transactions required Bitcoin, a virtual currency that can be purchased with real cash and stored in a personal account or “wallet.” As far as product variety and availability go, the marketplace was a veritable smorgasbord: marijuana, cocaine, meth, ecstasy, psychedelics, benzos, and even heroin were available. Some buyers purchased in bulk for reselling.

Using a system of user feedback similar to eBay’s, Silk Road users could view a seller’s profile and community comments before doing business. This feature attempted to fend off both shady dealers and undercover cops. For shipping, products were often triple vacuum-packed (to avoid being sniffed out), and were either mailed or sent by private carriers like UPS or FedEx.

Now the bad news: Many digital marketplace sites have been closed down by law enforcement, and others have been hacked and robbed out of existence. Bitcoin, too, has had its fair share of struggle in the marketplace. The hard truth is that the buying of controlled substances, including medicinal drugs without a prescription, is illegal. The DEA website warns that prescription drugs “delivered by rogue websites [i.e. those not licensed to distribute narcotics] may be the wrong drugs, adulterated or expired, the wrong dosage strength.”

“The creator of Silk Road, the so-called ‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’ AKA Ross Ulbricht, was found and arrested in October of 2013 after more than three years of operation.”
Despite state laws passed in Colorado or Washington, marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law, so the transportation of it via the USPS can potentially lead to federal drug charges. Also, sending or knowingly receiving any controlled substance through the mail makes you vulnerable to charges under the statute of using the mail for poisonous or hazardous items, which can mean federal prison time.

First-class mail service is protected from search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment, but this doesn’t prevent use of X-rays and drug sniffing dogs. Private carriers, on the other hand, have no such limitations. Authorities can open packages at will if they deem a package suspicious. Possession of certain quantities of drugs can carry automatic mandatory sentences (e.g. 28 grams of crack, 5 grams of meth, and 100 grams of heroin are all mandatory five years and penalties vary from state to state). Other determining factors can include the defendant’s past record and the amount and type of drug.

While these dark sites attempt to build many layers of security and anonymity, there’s no guarantee you won’t get caught. According to The Advocate, the Postal Service arrested 1,760 people in 2012. Furthermore, the creator of Silk Road, the so-called “Dread Pirate Roberts,” AKA Ross Ulbricht, was found and arrested in October of 2013 after more than three years of operation.