The man who allegedly ran Silk Road, the world’s largest yet safest drug marketplace, has been given life in jail. Ross Ulbricht, found guilty of narcotics conspiracy and other charges earlier this year, received the harshest possible sentence possible in a case that exposes the absurdity of the U.S. war on drugs.
The charges were a result of Ulbricht’s alleged management of the Silk Road, which ran as a Tor Hidden Service and accepted anonymous Bitcoin payments to create a marketplace for drugs and other goods.
In October 2013, at the time it was shut down, Silk Road was the largest marketplace of its kind. Law enforcement officials estimate that the Silk Road handled as much as $200 million in drug transactions, a figure that seemed to play prominently in today’s sentencing decision.
And yet what the government is hiding, as we detailed extensively here, is that Silk Road was also the safest drug marketplace that has ever operated in the United States. The site featured a registered doctor who was paid by Ulbricht to give advise about dosage, drug interactions and addiction treatment options to the site’s users.
Unlike street corner peddlers, who often mix dangerous chemicals into their products that alone can kill people, Silk Road sought to ensure drugs were as advertised and that medical help was available to any and all who needed it.
So while the prosecution focused on how many people died as a result of Silk Road drugs – just five in total – it is likely that relative to the large volume of sales many more lives were saved by providing medical advise and drug verification.
The ending to Ulbricht’s story is like so many other victim’s of the United States’ war on drugs: A bright young man with the ability to contribute to society in spite of his crimes will now spend the rest of his days rotting in jail.