In May, the United Kingdom approved a new law, which banned all new psychoactive substances (NPS). One interesting fact about the new legislation: it bans all substances that have an effect on the brain (there is a pre-approved list of narcotics, such as nicotine or alcohol).
As most of us know, banning drugs does not stop customers from purchasing them. According to the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime report, the sale of the NPS will most likely move to the dark web.
“Change in legislation around NPS in May 2016 effectively banning so-called ‘legal highs’ is likely to see a large increase in these drugs being offered through the dark web instead,” the report reads. The “associated probability range” of the increase could be around 75-85 percent.
It looks like the NCA’s report is accurate, there is a large number of psychoactive substances for sale on dark net markets by UK vendors. For example, spice, a synthetic cannabinoid, has become more popular in the last few months.
For instance, “SaintSymbiosis”, a UK vendor on Dream Market is advertising 7 grams of spice for 0.1094 BTC, around £50 ($66).
“This was a legal high in the UK untill [sic] very recently, it is extremely strong and unless you are an experienced user of this type of product I would strongly urge you not to order this, it will be too strong for you to enjoy and certainly not a drug you would want to take up as a new user,” the product description reads.
Regardless of the new drug law, psychoactive substances have always been available on dark net markets. Some examples include Benzo Fury, which was first banned in 2013 and the effects were similar to ecstasy; the psychostimulant ethylphenidate, considered as illegal in April 2015; and lisdexamphetamine, a stimulant outlawed in 2014.
Before the NPS law, customers could easily purchase the substances online from the clearnet. Some websites in the UK are still selling the drugs, however, both buyers and sellers might risk prosecution. The ban does not cover possession, but the production, supply, import and export of the narcotics.
According to a BBC report, synthetic cannabinoids are being sold on the street, on the “traditional black market”. This means not just the dark web will profit from the new law, but street dealers too.
“It’s still endemic I suppose. Obviously, you can’t buy it in the shops, but there’s still plenty of people who sell it here,” a user told the BBC.
“I don’t think we have anything more to add on the subject above and beyond what is in the [National Strategic Assessment],” an NCA spokesman told the media.
“These dangerous drugs have already cost far too many lives. The Psychoactive Substances Act is sending out a clear message – this government will take whatever action is necessary to keep our families and communities safe,” a Home Office spokesman said in a statement. “These drugs are not legal, they are not safe and we will not allow them to be sold in this country. Legislation is part of our approach to drugs which involves preventing drug use in our communities and helping dependent individuals to recover while ensuring our drugs laws are enforced.”