Two major global drug studies from Global Drug Survey and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) emphasized the impact of the darknet on the rising global drug usages. EMCDDA specifically noted the rise of cryptomarkets such as AlphaBay, that accept anonymous cryptocurrencies including Monero to facilitate transactions.
Bitcoin, the best performing currency and asset of 2016 and the most widely recognized global digital currency is not anonymous by nature. Although there exists several proposals including TumbleBit that will highly likely anonymize the digital currency, currently, bitcoin transactions can be traced and extensively surveilled.
Tightening Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) policies on bitcoin exchanges and service providers have made bitcoin even more accessible by law enforcement, as it allows local authorities to demand personal information and financial data from trading platforms. With that, agencies can track down a bitcoin transaction, find its correlation with an exchange, unravel user information and ultimately, crackdown the illicit drug buyer.
Because users understand bitcoin’s inapplicability in the dark web as of current, other privacy-focused digital currencies like Monero are in high demand within the darknet. AlphaBay recently revealed that 2% of their sales are facilitated with Monero.
In a study entitled “European Drug Report 2016: Trends and Developments,” the EMCDDA provided an entire section under “New supply methods: online drug markets” to describe the impact of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin & monero on rising drug purchases.
The EMCDDA’s study read:
“They can also operate on the deep web, through darknet markets or cryptomarkets, like AlphaBay or the defunct Silk Road. Cannabis products and MDMA are reported to be the illicit drugs most frequently offered for sale on darknet markets, alongside a range of medicines.”
However, in consideration of the small volume of digital currency payments accepted by darknet markets like AlphaBay, it is an overly exaggerated conclusion to state that cryptomarkets play a large role in the development of online drug trading.
More importantly, the EMCDDA claims Cannabis products accounted for the largest share of the illicit drug market, a drug often used for recreational and medical purposes. Cannabis is also being legalized in most regions in the United States.
Darknet drug purchases also demonstrated a slight increase of 2.2 percent from 4.5 to 6.7 percent, representing a small fraction of the global drug market. To allocate a substantial amount of capital, resources and manpower to crackdown on darknet which only accounts for 6.7% of the global drug market is inefficient and impractical.
The Global Drug Survey organization similarly concluded that cannabis products were most commonly bought in the darknet.
“Globally almost in 1 in 10 participants (9.3%) reported ever buying drugs off the dark-net with those reporting last year dark-net purchase rising from 4.5% to 6.7%. MDMA, cannabis, new or novel substances (including 2C-B and DMT) and LSD are the drugs most commonly bought,” read the Global Drug Survey’s report.