Ever since the media discovered tor and the hidden web, focus has never been greater on the shadowy actions taking place on tor. However, one does not need tor and proxies to buy drugs and illicit substances on the internet. The media has been focusing on Tor because it gives anonymity to both the buyer and seller, making it very shady to the outside eye. One thing the media has overlooked is that the purchase of drugs has always occurred on the internet, with or without tor. To many people's surprise, one of the first ever online purchases was of marijuana. The transaction was between Stanford student and MIT students using the Arpanet. The media took one look at hidden marketplaces on Tor and had a field day with it because it is not common knowledge that this has been going on for a long time. From hardcore drugs such as cocaine, heroin to smaller scale drugs such as pot and steroids, all manner of narcotics have been sold on the internet going back as far as the 1970's. Obviously you cant just post on eBay that you are selling a pound of OG Kush, so contact between buyer and seller has always been tasking. This gave rise to forums and websites that revolve around these drugs themselves. If you were to slightly dig a little deeper, finding a supplier is not that difficult of a task.
Although finding a seller might not be a difficult task, secure communications become the issue at hand. When the internet first became widespread, secure encrypted communication was not often used, or available to be used. When dealing with illegal transactions, obviously an issue arises. Even more, today with surveillance agencies and ISP's sleeping in bed with the government, encrypted communication is almost mandatory. If you are found to be planning to sell illegal substances online, it is as good as gold in court as planning to sell in person. To solve this issue, after connecting buyer and seller, public private key encryption is used to communicate. Both parties will share their public key with each other in order to encrypt the message. Once the message is received, a party uses their private key to decrypt the message. This encryption message ensures both parties that even if their message is intercepted, it can only be decrypted by the party that they are trying to contact. This style of encryption allows deals to be made by two individuals on the clearnet, or the internet as we know it. The package is then usually sent out via United States Postal Service, which as a federal law, does not allow any packages to be opened without a good reason. By using this service, the majority of packages slip right by the noses of government agencies, and safely to the door of the buyer. The way I see it, narcotic sales have always existed on the internet and are not going away any time soon.