Senators ask Justice Dept. to shut down online drug market

Democratic Sens. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters MORE (N.Y.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinMajor climate program likely to be nixed from spending package: reports Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE (W.Va.) are asking the Justice Department to shut down an online market where users can purchase illegal and prescription drugs anonymously.

The pair wrote to Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderArkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats Oregon legislature on the brink as Democrats push gerrymandered maps Christie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group MORE and Drug Enforcement Administration administrator Michele Leonhart over the weekend asking them to shut down the "Silk Road" website, which launched in February.

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“By allowing users to buy and sell illegal drugs online, the website ‘Silk Road’ is nothing less than a one-stop shop for drugs that needs to be shut down immediately,” Schumer said. “Never before has a website so brazenly peddled illegal drugs online, but by cracking down on the website immediately, we can help stop these drugs from flooding our streets.”

According to recent reports the site lets users buy and sell drugs from each other using an untraceable digital currency known as Bitcoins. After purchasing Bitcoins online a user can create an account on Silk Road and start ordering a wide range of drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, acid and marijuana for home delivery.

The senators argue the attorney general has the authority under the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act to shut down the site for distributing controlled substances by seizing the domain name. The Obama administration has seized more domains than any previous administration, primarily in cases of digital piracy or online counterfeiting.

"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," Manchin said.

"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.”

The PROTECT IP Act that is currently on hold in the Senate would expand the government's authority to take down and prosecute sites that deal in fake prescription drugs; the site would also significant increase the penalties for illegally distributing pharmaceuticals over the Web.