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Online Drug Markets Are Entering a 'Golden Age'

Darknet drug markets are thriving despite the coronavirus lockdown, with sales up, delivery times faster than Amazon and more robust defences against hackers, according to analysis by VICE News. As the routines and restrictions of the working day receded for millions on lockdown, buying drugs online has never been so popular, research shows. What's more, as Covid-19 restrictions lift, these markets – which deliver drugs to millions of people worldwide every day – are emerging from a tough few years with their immune systems boosted, thanks to a combination of technical innovation, collaboration between competitors and sheer good fortune. "Darknet drug markets are in a golden age," says darknet researcher Dark.Fail. "People worldwide have been stuck at home exploring Tor [an internet browser used to access markets privately] and buying drugs. In January, the markets were hard to access, as they were under permanent attack from hackers. Now, they are operating quicker than ever before." Analysis by VICE News, EU agencies and tech firms reveal that, boosted by coronavirus panic buying, online sales of cannabis, MDMA, cocaine and mephedrone are all flourishing at, or above, prior averages. On the most popular global market, Empire, where many retailers offered lockdown deals, business has been especially brisk, with thousands of positive reviews about drug quality and speed of delivery. SALES AND TURNOVER HAVE BOTH INCREASED In May, the EU's drugs agency, the EMCDDA, reported that Cannazon — a cannabis-only online market — sold 1.6 tonnes of weed, worth €5.2 million [$5.9 million], up 27 percent in volume between January and March. Sales are hard to measure with certainty on darknet markets, but by checking customer feedback with specialist software it is possible to estimate trends. Several of the UK's biggest online drug vendors have maintained positive feedback on around 1,000 to 2,000 sales monthly since January. That figure is broadly in line with their average...
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