Congress has long had an interest in stemming the online sale of illegal opioids but investigating and identifying criminals who traffic these drugs on the dark web is incredibly challenging for law enforcement agencies. Enter the Dark Web Interdiction Act of 2022 (HR 7300, S 3782), a new bipartisan bill that seeks to improve the investigative and enforcement abilities of law enforcement agencies when dealing with criminals selling controlled substances (CS) on the dark web. The bills were introduced by Representatives Tony Gonzales (R-TX) and Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

Specifically, the bill would increase the penalties for criminals caught selling illegal drugs on the dark web. The bill would also strengthen the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement task force, a group established by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2018 that coordinates international, federal, state, and local investigative and enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking on the dark web, by enshrining the task force in statute and making it permanent.

The bill would also direct the US DOJ, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of the Treasury to issue a report to Congress detailing the use of cryptocurrency and virtual currency for opioid trafficking on the dark web.

The bill complements other legislative efforts in Congress, such as the Domain Reform for Unlawful Drug Sellers Act (DRUGS Act) (HR 6352, S 3399), that seek to address illegal online drug sales. The DRUGS Act would require domain name registries and registrars to lock and suspend domains when they are notified by a trusted notifier, which includes Food and Drug Administration, Drug Enforcement Administration, and state boards of pharmacy, that the websites are primarily being used to illegally sell prescription medicines and CS.

While the prospects for both bills are currently uncertain, support is growing in Congress to find ways to prevent the sale of illegal and counterfeit drugs on the internet.