The United Kingdom’s Royal Mail service is notoriously reliable. Ninety-nine percent of packages sent through the post in Britain reach their destinations, which is great for the people who use it to buy drugs with all the confidence we’ve come to expect from other, licit online shopping experiences.
Take “Steve” for example. As “Steve”—not his real name—and a friend were preparing to head to a music festival, they realized they were short on MDMA. About an ounce short, to be precise.
So they fired up their Tor browser, went on the dark web to one of the many successor websites to online drug marketplace Silk Road, and placed an order. When the postal carrier showed up, it was better than Christmas, Steve told BBC Newsbeat.
“We see the postie drive down and we get very excited. She gives me the package, I sign for it… happy doo-dah,” he told Newsbeat. “She handed it over and said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and I said, ‘Thank you very much.’”
Steve says he’s clean now, but used the very same method—paying with bitcoin for drugs online, and watching postal carriers dutifully deliver them, without so much as a raised eyebrow—to buy cannabis, cocaine and psychedelics as well as molly, he told Newsbeat.
Sending drugs via the mail isn’t new, and buying drugs online may be as old as the internet itself. And even though Silk Road was infamously and noisily shut down by the U.S. Justice Department, many, many other people are still patronizing similar sites—enough for “millions of pounds” of drugs to be sent via the mails in the U.K., one expert told Newsbeat.
It’s the old Mitch Hedberg joke again—except this time, the mailman knows he’s a drug dealer, and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.
The official line from Royal Mail is that it doesn’t “knowingly carry any illegal items,” which is not quite what its carriers are telling Newsbeat.
One, who went by the pseudonym “Patrick,” says that he and colleagues routinely encounter packages they know to be suspicious—and are told to deliver them anyway, with unquestionable efficiency and reliable politeness.
“You tell the managers and all they say [is that] you need to deliver it,” he told Newsbeat. “If it’s got a stamp on it, you have to post it.”
Including packages that reek like weed. Though the Royal Mail told Newsbeat it takes trafficking-by-post seriously, another carrier said that in 14 years of delivering mail, he’d yet to see a single drug dog. And like “Patrick” said—once a package is posted, it has to be delivered.
This is a bit of a twist on one of the ravages of the Information Age. Far from killing the post office, the internet (at least internet-based drug dealers) needs the mail service to survive. The same can’t be said for the offline drug trade, which needs to worry about being disrupted out of existence.
According to the Global Drug Survey, about 20 percent of drug users reported buying their drugs online. Reasons cited for going that route included reliability, wide choice and purity.
Online drug peddlers have also learned a thing or two from the likes of Amazon.com. Online drug buyers say they’re more likely to try other drugs, in small part thanks to the suggestions they receive for future purchases of other product.
Says Dr. Adam Winstock of Kings College, London: “So it’s like ‘We’ve noticed you like LSD and magic mushrooms, perhaps you’d be interested in 2CB or DMT.’”
U.K. officials say they’ve dedicated 1.9 billion pounds towards cybersecurity, but experts say that data breaches and other malicious hackings are greater priorities than people mailing drugs.
Hard to argue with that.
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