Most people who buy drugs still buy them the old-fashioned way: on the street, from a dealer who gets his stuff from a bigger dealer, who gets it from a shipper, who gets it from a processor, who gets it from the maker.
Well, we’re not going to tell you how, at least not the specifics. Buying drugs online is as much a crime as buying them from your local dealer, and we’re not here to help you break the law. But we can give you a pretty good idea of how the whole thing works – and it does work. First, you need to know the background.
The Dark Web
For years now, intrepid web surfers have been carving out a secure, highly anonymous corner of the Internet known as the Deep Web. Despite their ominous reputation, the websites that comprise this region serve many legitimate purposes. They protect journalists and their sources; they encourage political dissent in totalitarian countries; and they give troubled teens a place to seek honest, anonymous advice, among other societal benefits.
But there is definitely a sketchy side to the Deep Web, it’s known as the Darknet, and that’s where you can find drugs. Also, weapons, stolen credit card data, fake IDs, hacking services, guides to committing fraud, and almost any other contraband you could possibly imagine.
Anonymous web browsing
To get there, you need something called Tor. It’s a special web browser made by the people at the Tor Project, which began many years ago as a contract for the U.S. Navy. Tor’s purpose is to allow you to surf the Internet without leaving tracks or publicly identifying yourself.
Governments follow your web behavior using your IP address, a string of numbers that identifies the “node” connecting your computer to the Internet. In other words, whenever you visit a website, your IP address exposes your computer’s identity. Obviously this is a problem when you’re trying to score illegal drugs.
Tor works by encrypting your IP address and data and then bouncing them between a series of dedicated servers on the way to their destination. Each relay decrypts a single layer of data (but not the IP address), leaving the full data exposed at the end of the line. This means only the last relay has access to the actual message that leaves your computer – and that person has no way of identifying you.
Beware of the risks
This money comes in the form of bitcoins, the only currency most Darknet markets will accept. Exchanging U.S. dollars for bitcoins is anything but easy, and that alone makes the job of buying marijuana or other drugs a pain in the butt.
A final word of caution before we move on to Part 2. For obvious reasons, the Darknet is a scammer’s delight. Very few honest people operate there, and while it’s certainly possible to score drugs, it’s also highly likely you’ll lose a few hundred bucks in the process. Everyone gets scammed, even the scammers.
Odds are, you’ve already heard of the Darknet. Even if you haven’t seen the name before, you’ve certainly come across the story of Ross Ulbricht.
Ulbricht was arrested in 2013 in California after cops pegged him as the operator of an anonymous site called the Silk Road. It was, and remains, the largest black market ever to grace the Internet. He received a life sentence, and his fall served as a warning to the rest of the Darknet.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still buy drugs there, including marijuana. The risk is higher than it was before the Silk Road came down, but it remains fairly safe if appropriate steps are taken.
But plenty can go wrong, and not infrequently does. Reddit is peppered with self-posted stories about raids and arrests stemming from Darknet deals. As far as we know, Tor itself has never been compromised by law enforcement, but many people make dumb mistakes and out (or “dox”) themselves as dealers or customers.
Silk Road founder got clumsy
Witness what happened to Ulbricht. The Silk Road was actually well-designed, at least in terms of its anonymity and security. But Ulbricht got sloppy in other ways. He posted an ad for help on the “clear net” (the regular Internet) and used an email address that was later tied to both him and the market.
And of course there is the risk of shipping drugs through the mail. Given the massive number of letters and packages handled by the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, and other mail services, it’s highly unlikely a single drug shipment will get you busted. But few people order drugs just once, and repeated deliveries can catch the attention of postal carriers.
That said, this remains one of the most popular methods dealers use to ship drugs across the country or around the world. Busts are relatively rare, though using the mail can trigger federal criminal charges.
Varying quality of product
With a street dealer, at least you have a face and a (fake) name to deal with. You have no idea who’s on the other end of the Internet. There have been more than a few horror stories on the web about overdoses caused by greedy online dealers selling cheap, high-purity Fentanyl as heroin. A single bad batch could be the end.
Besides, you’re not going to find the world’s best marijuana online. The risk of scams and poor product is just too high to make it a good source for your everyday pot supply. Some will use this method anyway, but you should know you’re going to end up paying too much for too little.
If you’re looking for cocaine or meth or ketamine, on the other hand, the Darknet may be your best bet. But don’t count on it. When everyone in a place is greedy and anonymous, you should expect to part with your money, fast, and you should always expect to leave empty-handed. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.