June 06, 2011

Manchin Urges Federal Law Enforcement to Shut Down Online Black Market for Illegal Drugs

Manchin asks U.S. Attorney General, DEA Chief to crack down on ‘Silk Road,’ which traffics in ‘any drug imaginable’ and could flood West Virginia with even more prescription drugs

**Images Available**

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has urged the U.S. Attorney General and Drug Enforcement Agency to immediately shut down an anonymous online black market for drugs, including prescription drugs, cocaine, LSD and heroin. The illicit network, called Silk Road, allows users anywhere in the country to purchase illicit drugs using untraceable currency and have them shipped to their homes via the United States Postal Service.  

“West Virginians and our businesses are already trying to tackle a major prescription drug epidemic in our schools, among our families and throughout our communities. As we fight against drug 'pill mills,' we must put an immediate stop to an anonymous online black market that could put even more illicit prescription drugs into our communities and hurt our ability to create and save jobs. We must confront this scourge everywhere we find it, whether it’s an online black market or in prescription pill mills flooding our state from Florida,” Senator Manchin said. “I've talked to our doctors, law enforcement officers and community leaders about the total destruction drugs are causing in our communities, and there is no question that more must be done to address this growing threat to all of our families.”

In April, Senator Manchin announced a commonsense, three-point plan to fight drug abuse nationwide. West Virginia has one of the nation’s highest rates of drug overdose deaths, and Senator Manchin pledged his support for legislation that would put a federal ban on deadly synthetic drugs being marketed as “bath salts” and “plant food,” and add them to the list of controlled substances. Senator Manchin has also announced plans to introduce new legislation in the Senate to crack down on so-called “pill mills,” where people can go to get powerful prescription drugs that they do not use for medical reasons. 

A copy of the letter, which Senator Manchin co-signed with Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), is below.


Images from the Silk Road site are also attached. 

The Honorable Eric Holder                                                            
Attorney General                                                                       
U.S. Department of Justice                                                           
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Michele Leonhart, Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration 
U.S. Department of Justice                                             
8701 Morrissette Drive                                                    
Springfield, VA 22152                                                   

Dear Attorney General Holder and Administrator Leonhart:

We write to express my grave concern upon discovery of an online marketplace for illegal drugs, known as “Silk Road.”  Launched in February, this underground website allows users to hide their identities and freely purchase and sell illegal drugs, ranging from cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana.

As you may know, Silk Road employs various layers of secrecy to ensure that the identities and activities of all users are obscured.  By utilizing the anonymizing network TOR, Silk Road ensures that users’ tracks on the site are hidden.  The only method of payment for these illegal purchases is an untraceable peer-to-peer currency known as Bitcoins.  After purchasing Bitcoins through an exchange, a user can create an account on Silk Road and start purchasing illegal drugs from individuals around the world and have them delivered to their homes within days.  After completing online purchases, users are instructed to disguise shipments and vacuum seal drugs that may be detected by odor.

The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act (21 U.S.C. § 841) defines the offense of operating an illegal website like Silk Road.  Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 853(a)(2), the Attorney General has the authority to shut down such entities involved in the delivery and distribution of controlled substances by seizing the website domain name.  

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been and continues to be rigorous in enforcing our controlled substance laws and regulations.  As part of this critical mission, we urge you to take immediate action and shut down the Silk Road network.    

We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to working with you on this important issue.





Charles E. Schumer                                        Joe Manchin

United States Senator                                    United States Senator