How Silk Road Revolutionized The Drug Trade

Silk RoadBy Emily Pont

Since the ‘War On Drugs’ was declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, we have blatantly observed this severely destructive regime oppress the lives of countless numbers of drug users. Said to have been implemented to reduce the production, distribution and consumption of illegal narcotics, this system has been utterly counterproductive. It has caused far much more oppression and aggression in society than producing any positive outcome and this has resulted in mass incarceration, an increase in demand for these substances (consequently increasing cost) and wasting billions of dollars a year to imprison drug offenders, over 50 percent of which are non-violent. With low-level drug offenders constituting over 20 percent of the total Federal Prison population, we desperately need to realise that the ‘War On Drugs’ has been an absolute failure, with grave repercussions.

It needs to be acknowledged that prohibition of narcotics and criminalization of users are strategies that will very scarcely reduce the processes of the drug trade. Instead, they have been proven to increase the dangers that can occur when purchasing drugs and contribute to the ever expanding militarisation of the police force. A large number of those dedicated to enforcing the ‘War On Drugs’ have been witnessed to act with overbearing authority and use extraneous violence in order to achieve this. In light of these outcomes, it is paramount that we urgently reform the way in which we approach drug possession and use.

Online markets offering the sale of narcotics are a step forward in this reform. Silk Road was an open-market online economic experiment which was ethically governed by a non-aggression principle. This was a politically driven platform, and an economic simulation giving people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live without the systemic use of force, empowering people to have privacy and anonymity. Despite the demonising and sensationalistic narrative popular media outlets have portrayed regarding the website, Silk Road had in reality been exceedingly productive and beneficial in reducing harm, providing professional advice, and allowing narcotic users a safe and secure outlet to express and/or overcome their drug use without the fear of conviction and criminalisation. When we compare the two it becomes clear that, in contrast to the devastating affects the drug war has brought upon society, Silk Road achieved vastly more positive results regarding drug use in its short life time than the drug war has accomplished over its 40 year rule of oppression.

From a basic standpoint, it is clear that the digital nature of Silk Road made purchasing narcotics far safer. Without the forced buyer and seller interactions many drug users have to go through, Silk Road allowed users the safety of anonymity and cut out physical communication between buyers and sellers that could result in threatening behaviour and violence, which is typically associated with street dealings. Silk Road, much like mainstream trading sites like Amazon.com, provided a feedback system, which allowed users to comment on their experiences with certain sellers, and the quality of the product they received.

While the International Journal of Drug Policy conducted research into the process of purchasing from the website and the interactions that took place between vendors and sellers, a vendor on Silk Road had stated that “Reputation on Silk Road is what keeps vendors in business. Your reputation is open to all. The seller who wants good business on Silk Road has to try and make every customer happy. Customer service has never been this good on the street market.”

Silk Road took purchasing drugs off the streets where there is potential for dangerous outcomes, and allowed users the ability to purchase high-quality, clean and untainted products from a reliable vendor based to a certain extent on customer feedback. A feature which greatly reduced the dangers when taking drugs. In his declaration, Tom Bingham, researcher of the user experiences of vendors and consumers on Silk Road, stated “In contrast to street drug markets, the Silk Road site operated a professional dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disputes between buyers and sellers.”

This statement reiterates the way in which Silk Road resolved issues peacefully and efficiently, overall providing a vastly safer, more reliable, and secure way of purchasing narcotics. Whereas the War on Drugs has resulted in an increase of brutality across the globe, with gangs and cartels resulting to settling disputes through violent means.

In addition to the safety that Silk Road provided whilst purchasing drugs, the website was also focused on harm reduction when consuming narcotics. With many forums actively discussing how to take certain substances safely regarding purity of the product, dosage amounts, etc. . Forum members appeared well informed around drug use, focused on educating individuals, sharing advice and experiences. The site also included forums dedicated to members wishing to get support and assistance while quitting their drug use. Professional advice was shared on the Silk Road forums by ‘DoctorX’, an experienced physician specialising in the area of drugs and addiction, whom Dread Pirate Roberts paid $500 dollars per week to answer questions and advise members on the safety when using.

As a result of my personal experiences working with customers on the Silk Road site, and monitoring the site’s drug safety forums, I have first hand knowledge that Silk Road provided site users with the tools to take drugs in a safer and more informed manner, espoused harm reduction ethos which was reflected in the individual buyer-seller transactions on the site and in the community created on the site’s forums.

Dread Pirate Roberts also sought to partner with me to send the drugs sold on the Silk Road out to laboratories for independent testing as part of an effort to ensure that only safe, non-toxic substances were being sold on Silk Road. – Dr. Fernando Caudevilla (DoctorX).

However, this project was still in the process of organisation when the FBI shut down the website in October of 2013.

People will continue to produce and consume drugs with prohibition and criminalization, as has been observed by the sheer non-effectiveness and counter-productivity of the drug war. It is time to completely re-think our strategy in handling this issue. Legalisation and harm reduction methods have been proven to be a successful approach to drug use. If we look at Switzerland, for example, its innovative policy of providing drug users with free methadone and clean needles has drastically reduced deaths and cut crime rates. Health experts have state that this should serve as a global model. Silk Road took the danger out of drug transactions and eliminated the violence that accompanies face to face buyer and seller communications. Silk Road assisted users in making informed decisions regarding the purchase and safety of products as well giving access to relevant and more comprehensive information.

Meghan Ralston, a former harm reduction manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, wrote that Silk Road was “a peaceable alternative to the often deadly violence so commonly associated with the global drug war and street drug transactions, in particular.”

Switzerland’s drug policy illustrates the progress that can be made and is a clear example of an effective and humane way to approach drug use. Drug use should be handled as a health issue and not a criminal one if we want to effectively reduce harm. The continuity of the drug war will inevitably bring further incarceration of non-violent offenders serving outrageous mandatory minimum sentences for victimless crimes, and throwing away billions of dollars to fund a system that has only caused systemic human rights violations and oppression. Silk Road created a productive way of approaching drug use that we so desperately needed. Taking drugs off the streets, reducing risk, and providing information.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: Do we want to continue in a losing battle, a never-ending cycle of oppression created by the War on Drugs, or do we want to learn from the productive action Silk Road took in order to revolutionize the drug trade?


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14 Comments on "How Silk Road Revolutionized The Drug Trade"

  1. The War on Drugs isn’t about protecting America or its people but rather about controlling and enslaving us. The FBI, alphabet soup agencies and the military are nothing but enforcers for the elite Zionist Mafia.

  2. cellaphaneman | August 3, 2016 at 8:25 am | Reply

    The Royals have owned the drug routes for hundreds of years.
    The Bushes and Clintons fly drugs into Mena, Arkansas.
    Eric ‘the fast and furious’ Holder sells taxpayer guns for drugs.
    This is the nautre of alphabets.
    The war on drugs was designed to keep the little guy out of the big picture, or rather “…it’s a big idea…”
    G. Bush sr.
    suggested reads:
    ‘The Committee of 300’John D. Coleman – hint an income stream of the gold colllar scum.

    Ditto Restless.

  3. Please we, are reading another article that furthers the drugs warfare offensive down our throats. We in America have a right to a drug free environment, our children have a right to grow up free from the oppression of stupidity, depravity, and defilement that drug use brings on. Our lack of culture and civilization, our society is not degraded enough? Parents, teachers, doctors, police personnel, bankers, politicians, etc, who use drugs influence children and the community, are undermining our society, threatening the national security. The right to defile oneself is not constitutionally protected. In older countries and ancient societies, the drug user is imprisoned and the drug smuggler or seller is executed asap to protect the family unit and the community at large. It’s that simple and I am not even going into the power of International Drug Cartels that support these kind of articles and political’ movements; the soft Drug War. Drug use must be condemned, and users need to seek help in breaking off their addiction as a matter of the national security.

    • John Michaelson | August 5, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Reply

      In principle, I agree that drugs, alcohol, and many other addictions are regrettable and often counter-productive behaviors, but no one is being oppressed here or forced to do anything. Only you are advocating force. You do not have a “right” for other people to make the choices you want them to, actually. You only have the right to be left to your own choices. Where do you get the right to imprison or otherwise punish those whom you consider “defiled” according to your, frankly, self-righteous and arrogant standards?

      • You’re hopeless, claiming to be the victim of mean righteousness, to fight for the right to defile yourself is really insane, riotous, when I only meant to correct the perspective and focus. Americans do have a right to a drug free environment, as dinners, airplane and train passengers, office workers and students , etc. have a right to sit in a smoke free environment. Your choices have implications and repercussions, Who’s fighting the Drug War, you are, shoving your values down our throat. You just don’t get, being totally enthralled by your addictions, you need help.

        • John Michaelson | August 8, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Reply

          You didn’t answer the question.

        • John Michaelson | August 26, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Reply

          What really shows the quality of your viewpoint is your statement that I am enthralled by my addictions. I guess I was right to call you self-righteous and arrogant, you demonstrated the reason right there. All you care about is your immediate habitat, to be sure your milieu is cleared (by force) of those whose behavior offends, or irritates you; meanwhile you instantly assume people you don’t even know are beneath you, inferior to you, lost in their addictions. wow, just…wow.

  4. The war on drugs is failed. It has a few successes, but by and large is a waste of taxpayer money.
    It is up to each parent to raise their children by example.
    There is no such thing as a drug free environment.

  5. John Michaelson | August 5, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Reply

    There needs to be a mechanism to exclude children from such voluntary transactions. It used to be called parents, but now children spend more time unsupervised.

  6. I meant to say did NOT sell guns.

  7. Robert Driggers | August 8, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Reply

    Wow; that is an idiotic response that shows you didn’t read what I had written. That is normal for a zealot that is so enshrouded in a belief that they ignore what anyone else is saying and repeat their brainwashed mantra. Try rereading my first post and then go point-by-point. Where did I say 1) that I used and 2) where anyone that threatened that right was “toast”?

    You may look down your nose at whomever you wish but before doing so I would suggest that you actually read what someone has written and answer the points made. When you don’t you sound like an ignorant buffoon who can only repeat some memorized talking points yet has no understanding of the actual subject.

    • It took days for you to think about it. ‘Understanding the actual subject’, that you know nothing of? Why don’t you find something meaningful to do; We’re not elevating ourselves, the society, or the culture here.

      • Robert Driggers | August 9, 2016 at 1:54 am | Reply

        It took me “days to reply” because I have a life; work, family and friends and only think of douchebags such as yourself when time worth wasting is available. Notice you still haven’t addressed a single point making you look the fool that you are.

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