The Online Drug Market Is Blowing Up

When Silk Road, a pioneering dark web drug market, was shut down a few years ago, some worried that it was the end of the anonymous online illicit trade in general. But just like in the real world, when one drug dealer goes away, another one steps in. A new study conducted by the University of Manchester and the University of Montreal says that “cryptomarkets” are bigger than ever.

Globally, darknet drug revenue has doubled since the FBI kicked down Silk Road’s door and in the U.K. it’s tripled. Surprisingly, weed’s the most popular product and makes up a third of all sales. Considering that weed is gradually being legalized in countries around the world and is just generally easy to get your hands on, it’s surprising that it’s the most popular dark web product and makes up a third of all sales. Shrug, maybe people just like delivery.

What does make sense is that more people have become comfortable with ordering drugs online and have familiarized themselves with the anonymity tools that are necessary to access cryptomarkets.

Some researchers believe that online drug sales actually make the world safer by eliminating the more violent street market but that’s hard to say for certain. On the other hand, there’s suspicion that street dealers are buying in bulk from online retailers so the drugs make it into the supply chain anyway.

Lawmakers might be wise to look at what’s happened to online piracy and BitTorrent-ing. Record labels and tech companies scrambled throughout the 2000’s to figure out how to address the impact file sharing was having on their profits. Meanwhile, companies like YouTube, Netflix and Spotify were innovating and creating platforms that would make it easy and affordable to get the product consumers were demanding. Now, those services that made it safe and legal to easily get video and music are steadily eating into Bittorrents market share. Likewise, legal peer-to-peer sales online might go a long way towards reducing the violent crime that comes along with an illicit business and help to provide an economic boost for many.

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