Web Opens Up Fresh Drug Market in Europe

A new front is opening in the war on drugs, with the internet emerging as an option to buy a plethora of hallucinogenics and synthetic drugs, according to the EU’s drugs watchdog, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The availability of everything from magic mushrooms to ‘fashionable’ synthetic drugs and their “aggressive marketing and intentional mislabelling” are complicating the fight against drug abuse in Europe, warns the Lisbon-based agency in its annual report.

The findings by the EMCDDA show that Europe is also losing the fight against hard drugs. Over five million people in the EU and Norway are believed to have used cocaine and heroine in the past year alone.

Listen to Vanessa Mock’s report

Harder to crack
With a random search on Google for magic mushroom retailers producing half a million entries, it is little wonder than the agency is concerned. Julian Vincente of the EMCDDA says the internet greatly complicates detection and control as illegal substances are often packaged up as legal products.

“This is an area that’s changing very quickly. For instance, there are herbal mixtures containing synthetic cannabis [that is five times more powerful than natural cannabis]. These substances are in a grey legal area, so you can’t have the same quality control as with medicines.”

According to the study, the synthetic cannabis substitute Spice was offered by nearly half of the 115 online drug retailers surveyed in 2009.

Cracking down on the traffickers themselves is also harder, as the sellers often operate from abroad, says Floor van Bakkum from the Dutch addiction agency, Jellinek Prevention. “So national authorities have to use cross-border crime laws, which is very complicated,” she says. But she isn’t convinced the online market will take off, pointing to the risks it poses for both sellers and buyers.

“If you buy online, you have to send an email and you have to get it through the post, and most people won’t be happy getting illegal substances by mail as they’re afraid the government would sniff it out and they’d get into trouble. So I don’t think there’s a big market for illegal substances online,” Ms van Bakkum told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Ms van Bakkum also says that getting hold of illegal drugs is still hard on the web, with the exception of magic mushrooms.

Global traffickers
The online development, though, is part of a bigger trend suggesting that drug traffickers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, says EMCDDA.

“The traffickers are always one step ahead of what we’re doing. They have more information, they are working more closely together and they have more global networks,” says Wolfgang Goetz, the EU drugs watchdog’s director.

“Cocaine and cannabis are now being seized together, meaning that South American traffickers are working together with North African traffickers. So we have to step up our monitoring.”

Cocaine and heroin are still very popular in Europe, especially in Western European countries like Spain, Denmark and Britain. “There is little to suggest any improvement regarding cocaine and heroin use in Europe, the two substances that remain at the heart of Europe’s drugs problem,” the report says.

The trends often reflect the fashionability of a certain drug, rather than its legal status, adds Julian Vincente. Although over 20 million Europeans are thought to have used cannabis in the past year, the drug’s popularity has fallen in the Netherlands, where it is legally available in coffee shops.

“Cannabis is less fashionable now. But cocaine is popular, it’s available and it’s linked to glamour and nightlife.”

– Article from Radio Netherlands on November 6, 2009.



  1. flapjack on

    The thing is… if you order from the right company, you’ll have it on your doorstep in 5-7 days. I live in the Desert Southwest and get my herbal blend from a headshop in Ireland. They provide free shipping(probably included in the price but I don’t care) and the smoke has never taken longer than a week to arrive. Not only that but why do people smoke that Spice shit? Nasty!!! Try Smoke XXX. Much better. :)

  2. Anonymous on

    I think JWH is actually still legal in Canada. Here’s what Wikipedia says

    “Health Canada has stated an opinion that JWH-018 falls under item 1 of schedule 2 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as a “similar synthetic preparation” to cannabis, even though it has no chemical relation to cannabis derived cannabinoids.[8]”

    Well, that opinion is wrong. The CDSA states in its “interpretations” section that an analogue must be substantially similar in chemical structure. Who’s going to be the first to try selling it? in a store? I think VSC should get some.

  3. Anonymous on

    I ‘d like to see a Canadian company start stocking and selling JWH-018, which they can get in bulk here http://jwh018.net/Shop.htm

    I’m a little leary about ordering directly from the UK but if a Canadian source had it I would order some. The Canadian government says it would be covered under the CDSA because it’s a THC analogue. They say that anything with a similar effect to a scheduled drug is also illegal but I doubt if that is constitutionally defensible. The US doesn’t classify a substance as an analogue unless its chemical structure is substantially similar, therefore JWH-018 is still legal in the US. If Canada’s trumped up version of the analogue act were legally defensible then caffeine would be just as illegal as cocaine because it has a similar effect. Kratom would also be illegal because it has the same effects as opiates. You get my point. I think you could sell JWH in Canada and the authorities would not be able to convict you of a crime.

  4. Anonymous on

    Apparently it’s best to buy these from ebay instead of ordering from the UK because it takes 4 weeks shipping from UK and because some sites are scams. I don’t know how long it will be available on ebay though. I found some Spice Diamond on there but the price was high.

    These products do get you high, according to forum posts I have read, and last longer than a weed high. It also doesn’t show up in drug tests because the structure is so different from THC. The only problem is that it costs as much or more than the same amount of weed. If they weren’t so greedy, they might actually be able to put weed dealers out of business.

  5. Anonymous on

    agreed =]

  6. pZ on

    …but doctors medicalize and police prioritize

    — the only thing government legalizes and tolerates is its own abuses of it’s own laws and signed contracts

  7. Anonymous on

    Maybe Cannabis will become obsolete with the new synthetic cannabinoids like JWH-018 being more potent and apparently not too difficult to produce. You got your Spice, you got your Forest Humus etc. If you could get the pure substance you wouldn’t even need to smoke the plant material they spray it onto.

  8. Brian Kerr on

    Let Legalize drugs. All drugs. Regulate and Control them.
    Put age limits on them, license and regulate businesses to produce the drugs.


    Let people grow their own plants any plants for there own use.

    Maybe that would work.