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Catalina Lobo-Guerrero is a freelance journalist and anthropologist currently living in Barcelona, Spain. For the past decade she has been working as an investigative journalist and correspondent in Bogotá, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela where has written about politics, corruption, the armed conflict and violence. Her work has been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, El País and other smaller and independent media outlets in Latin America.
If people are increasingly buying drugs online, instead of at their local dealer's corner, how are the drugs being delivered? In the UK, it's the Royal Mail, thank you very much. That's what Jim Connolly found as he reported on the subject for a BBC Newsbeat film. He talked about it with Jason Read on his Stop and Search podcast, which focuses on broadening the discussion on drugs, addiction, mental health and the media, the way these themes overlap, and how to influence legislation and how society handles the issue.
Following strict BBC guidelines and previously consulting with lawyers, Connolly actually went online, purchased three kinds of drugs with his credit card, had them delivered to a new PO Box he set up, and then took them across London to a government-approved lab to get analysed. One was a pill of MDA that came inside a pack of Haribo sweets. The other packet contained some hash that was disguised as tea inside a box that was supposedly scanner proof and smell proof, but it really wasn't once they tested it. The last one was some Spice the vendor didn't bother to camouflage.
As Connolly explained, the Dark Web is built on trust, like Ebay. The customer who buys gives a good review. The difference is that the seller at the other end isn't concerned about anyone's safety. He kept reminding himself that while he was doing the whole process. Reporting on drugs, regardless of anyone's personal views on legislation or the way people consume, meant going into a dangerous world. The Dark Web was fascinating but also a frightening place.
This experience left him with some answers, but also many questions: How can courier services avoid being used for all kinds of illegal businesses? How are governments tackling this? What is the priority for law enforcers when anyone can buy heroin or arms from the mafia, hire obscure digital services from the weirdest people, or buy child pornography from sexual abusers in the same place? How is one thing linked to another?