U.S. Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Combat Dark Web and Cryptocurrency-Based Opioid Trafficking

New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas, DN.H., and Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, both introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at cracking down on drug traffickers trafficking opioids and other illicit substances on the dark web. The sites on the dark web are largely hidden and can only be accessed through a special Tor browser.

We are seeing the devastating and deadly results of opioid abuse in urban and rural America, driven in large part by the dark web," the lawmakers said. These illicit marketplaces on the dark web are hubs and havens for some of society's most dangerous criminals, and as these criminals become more technologically advanced, we need to ensure that our law enforcement efforts [have] the proper tools to combat them."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths quadrupled between 1991 and 2019 - of the 70,630 deaths in 2019, more than 70 percent were opioid-related. The U.S. government does not track the death rate associated with each drug, but recently released data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that nearly 92,000 people will die from drug-related overdoses in the U.S. in 2020.

In the lawmakers' view, "drug dealers use the dark web to traffic illicit drugs, exacerbating the substance abuse disorder crisis that is devastating communities across the United States," including in their state.

Their legislation, if passed, would require the U.S. Sentencing Commission to expand criminal penalties for those who traffic in illegal drugs on the dark web. It would also direct the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury to issue a report to Congress within a year of the bill's passage "detailing the use of cryptocurrencies on the dark web." It would also mandate that Congress make recommendations on how to address the "use of virtual currencies on the dark web for opioid trafficking.

In addition, the bill intends to make permanent the Joint Criminal Task Force on Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE), which directs coordinated international, federal, state and local efforts to combat darknet drug trafficking and has led the shutdown of several darknet-based marketplaces. The task force was originally established in 2018 under the authority of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

If the legislation is passed, J-CODE would also be authorized to work with nonprofits, thus expanding its work.

"Confronting the ongoing substance use disorder crisis requires us to act on multiple fronts, including online," Pappas said. .

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary, Energy and Commerce and Financial Services committees. Earlier this month, similar legislation was introduced in the Senate by Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and John Cornyn of Texas.

From:On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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