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Monday, June 6, 2011

The Silk Road of the 21st Century

Caravan on the Silk Road
Source: Silk Road: A History by I. Franck and D. Brownstone

In the 21st Century the drug trade operates in a totally new way in order to stay under the radar of officials. The level of sophistication that can be associated with the drug trade is high, as is evident by one of the latest methods of distribution. Unbelievably, one can acquire just about any drug anonymously with the few clicks of their mouse. In the past there have been websites that allowed people to purchase rare herbs with hallucinogenic properties that have, in most cases escaped, the highly sensitive oversight of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Today, one has the ability to enter a very controversial, totally anonymous, realm of the World Wide Web. Once there, the user can order and purchase illegal drugs that will be sent to their home in several days via Canada. The website is called the Silk Road, named after the ancient trade route of the East, a path used heavily for opium trafficking. It is not surprising that two U.S. senators are calling on the federal government to work to shut down the website and any like it.

Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia would like the D.E.A. and the Justice Department to close and investigate the website. Fortunately, arriving at the website is very tricky and involves a few different steps that can be difficult to configure; this will make it harder for teenagers to act on any "good ideas" they may have involving drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The Associated Press reports that the website tells sellers to make shipments using vacuum-sealed bags so that drug-sniffing dogs will not detect the packages.

The ball is rolling it seems and the problem is likely to be hashed out before long considering the implications of a website like the Silk Road. If drugs can be acquired from the comfort of one's own home without a dealer or a user having to leave the house it will make the job of the D.E.A. much harder.

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