Exclusive interview with Dread Pirate Roberts: ‘You cannot stop people doing drugs’

Silk Road boss relaunches site and rejects violence

Mike Power
Nov 7, 2013 · 4 min read

Just five weeks after the FBI shuttered the Silk Road marketplace and charged 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht with running the Dark Web’s most profitable, trusted, and notorious drugs bazaar, the site is back online.

Thousands of new customer accounts were opened on the new Silk Road’s first day of trading. Many well-established and trusted vendors are already onboard, offering everything from cannabis and LSD to MDMA, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.

No sales have been made and no customer feedback has been received at the time I’m writing this.

The Silk Road’s new operator, known by the same pseudonym as his predecessor, Dread Pirate Roberts — spoke to me over an encrypted connection. And, he says, this new phase of the drugs war is as futile, counterproductive, and doomed to failure as the last.

What is your message to the international police forces that will at this very second be focused on your capture?

You will hunt me — but first ask yourselves is it worth it? Taking me down will not affect Silk Road — back-ups have already been distributed and this entire infrastructure can be redeployed elsewhere in under 15 minutes, and you will gain nothing from our database.

So, if you want to go after the real criminals, such as the rapists, the violent street thugs, and child abusers, then go ahead… but if you come after us, then all you will have done is take the unadulterated drugs away from people who will simply turn to more dangerous supplies.

I am peaceful. I will be donating money to charity; I will be providing free testing services for users and vendors — so if law enforcement wish to turn this into a PR disaster for themselves, then I will not stop their self-destruction.

Why are you doing this? Do you not fear a life in a high-security prison? Is this a political act?

Every man fears high-security prison for the rest of their lives, of that there is no doubt. But I am willing to do so if it is beneficial to our cause, and therefore while I do not wish to end up there, I think the benefits of doing this will outweigh the costs.

If I didn’t step up — who would have, another MettaDPR? [This refers to a darkmarket operator who set up post-SR and ran off with the money last week.]

What steps are you taking to avoid the site being seized again?

At this point in time I don’t think it would be suitable for me to comment on the architecture of Silk Road or our security measures.

What do you say to those who will accuse you of making drugs, even dangerous, life-destroying drugs such as crack, meth and heroin and diazepam, available to millions of people?

I would tell them to join the forum and speak to our community themselves, or even send me a mail. The recurring theme [at] Silk Road is that we provide honest, unadulterated products to people who want them, and whether we [were] here or not, most people would have access to them anyway from shady street dealers who lie through their teeth.

Let us assume you have a son who is in his teenage years and you knew they were going to do drugs, what as a parent, would you do? Would you let them go to their friends’ friends’ dealer … or would you help them buy from Silk Road from vendors who are reviewed regularly, and where we will be offering product-testing services, and [where we have] a resident doctor to ensure nobody harms themselves?

Ultimately you cannot stop people doing drugs, but you can make it safer for them, and get people off the streets and away from violence — which is what we stand for.

What’s your solution to the war on drugs?

Quite simply: to consign the disaster to the history books and redirect the allocated budgets to rehabilitation facilities, so that dependent users can re-enter the workforce.

The government has tried for years to repaint the walls, but what use is that if the wall is coming down? Fix the education system, fix the welfare system, help those most vulnerable in society, and we won’t have problematic drug users—only those who use that freedom responsibly.

When no child goes to bed hungry and no old person struggles to pay the costs of living, then I would be happy to say that tackling drug use is an acceptable way to spend money—if it were still illegal at that point. But putting people in jail for smoking a plant while leaving schoolchildren hungry at night is an utter disgrace.

The Silk Road and its illicit business is only one part of the picture. The gray market for designer drugs and legal highs is huge, and growing all the time. It’s an underground revolution full of wild and untested chemicals that has caught fire thanks to the web and globalization. And there may be nothing anybody can do to stop it.

In MATTER’s latest story, Uncontrolled Substances, Mike Power explores the complex history of designer drugs, and uncovers exactly how the system now allows almost anyone to design, commission, and manufacture their own legal high.

Drugs 2.0 — The web revolution that’s changing how the world gets high charts the past, present and future connections between the high society and high technology.

    Mike Power

    Written by

    Journalist and author. My book, Drugs 2.0 is out on Portobello now: http://t.co/Z6ywNmqW

    Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
    Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
    Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade