Yesterday the Justice Department unsealed an indictment that charges eight men from three countries with running "a sophisticated online drug marketplace that sold everything from marijuana to mescaline to some 3,000 people around the world," A.P. reports:
"The Farmer's Market"...allowed suppliers of drugs—including LSD, Ecstasy and ketamine—to anonymously sell their wares online. They hooked up with buyers in 34 countries and accepted various forms of payment, including cash, Western Union and PayPal transactions, the indictment claims....
The market "provided a controlled substances storefront, order forms, online forums, customer service, and payment methods for the different sources of supply" and charged the suppliers a commission based upon the value of the order, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
"For customers, the operators screened all sources of supply and guaranteed delivery of the illegal drugs," the statement said....
The marketplace allegedly used the Tor network, which spreads website and email communications through a volunteer network of servers around the world in order to mask Internet address information.
Sounds pretty cool, huh? André Birotte Jr., the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles (where some of the network's customers, including an undercover DEA agent, were located), does not think so. Explaining why he is threatening Marc Willems, the Dutch citizen who allegedly ran this innovative business, and his colleagues with life in prison, Birotte says, "We want to make the Internet a safe and secure marketplace." In reality, of course, the Justice Department wants to make this particular market as dangerous, insecure, and unreliable as possible, the better to discourage people from buying psychoactive substances that the government has arbitrarily declared intolerable. Willems et al.'s crime was not endangering consumers but protecting them from the vicissitudes of the black market.
Birotte is the same U.S. attorney who last year declared that "California law doesn't matter" when he decides which medical marijuana dispensaries to target.