The United States is ramping up its efforts to combat an opioid addiction crisis by introducing a legislative bill specifically targeting drug dealers on darknet markets. The bill, titled the Dark Web Interdiction Act, would increase penalties for dealers convicted of selling any type of illegal drug over the dark web. It was crafted by Senators Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and John Cornyn of Texas and introduced to the senate on Wednesday, Mar 9.
If passed into law, the Dark Web Interdiction Act would also direct the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury to provide a report to Congress “detailing the use of cryptocurrency on the dark web.” In addition, it would give recommendations to Congress on how to best approach the use of cryptocurrency as it pertains to opioid sales on the darknet.
“Drug dealers are using the dark corners of the internet to sell deadly drugs that are fueling the substance misuse crisis in New Hampshire and across the country,” wrote Hassan in a Facebook post announcing the introduction of the bill.
“I am teaming up with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas to crack down on those caught trafficking drugs on the dark web, target international fentanyl trafficking from China and Mexico, and strengthen our overall efforts to disrupt and dismantle these illegal marketplaces.” – Senator Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire
Hassan, Cornyn, and Senator Dianne Feinstein first requested information pertaining to the government’s current efforts to crack down on darknet market drug sales in September 2020. In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, the subcommittee specifically mentioned dark web sales of fentanyl as their primary concern, along with other highly-powerful opioids.
“Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from opioid overdoses,” the subcommittee mentioned in the letter – a problem which worsened considerably in the US over the next two years that followed. The latest estimates provided by the Center for Disease Control reveal that over 75,000 Americans now die of opiate overdoses on an annual scale, accounting for about 76% of all drug overdose fatalities in the nation.
While many darknet markets operating today implement a strict no-fentanyl or related analog policy, threatening to ban vendors caught selling these times, fentanyl is still frequently used as an adulterant in many fake pill formulations. These include products branded as Oxycontin, Percocet, Hydrocodone, and even Xanax.