Smart contracts are absolutely amazing at keeping track of data in the virtual world. Every time one piece of information is passed forward, it gets recorded into a ledger. That information can be traced back to its origin and throughout its entire journey in the most reliable way possible. Each operation is notarized and 100% verifiable and reliable.
Can these components of blockchain be weaponized in the war on drugs?
This is a mental exercise. It involves institutions, private companies, private citizens with private health records and the underground world of meth labs. It requires a complex system and various degrees of autonomy, privacy and transparency. Ultimately, it stretches the imagination of all problem-solvers out there.
Do chemicals end up in your cough syrup or inside a methamphetamine lab?
Ephedrine is an important component used in both cough syrup and in “cooking” high purity methamphetamines. This is a substance that the DEA repeatedly tried to control during the 90s. They pushed for the replacement of the component, moving it on a controlled substance list, track it or otherwise limit access to it. Essentially, they wanted to trace ephedrine throughout the supply chain so that none leaks into the black markets.
This is an impossible task using the old pen-and-paper approach. Enterprise blockchain on the other hand would make a great contender for it. Blockchains can trace a complex supply chain with great accountability AND proper privacy.
The issue: trace the components inside a complex system
How can a tagged chemical component like ephedrine be traced on the market? This is a starting point for an exercise you might want to toy with to see what comes out of it. Your end goal is to reliably trace the tagged component in a market that looks like this:
1. Factories are regulated and compliant. There are only a handful of primary suppliers capable of producing ephedrine. Your starting point is highly manageable.
2. Factories supply ephedrine to countless pharmaceutical companies in your country. This is a flexible number. New companies register every year, others go out of business.
3. Operations between companies are highly confidential. Only the two parties involved should be able to see the details of the trade (supply, pricing etc.)
4. For the sake of our exercise, there are two cheater companies that are registered as small pharmaceutical companies. They instead leak ephedrine to the black market. We want to make it impossible for them to operate.
5. The exit point is pharmacies. Customers can only buy up to three bottles of cough syrup at a time. Nothing is stopping the bad actors from doing rounds at multiple pharmacies to load up on as much cough syrup as they can. We want these activities to cease.
6. There are two state authorities involved. The FDA grants certificates and regulates the market. The DEA supervises the market. They both have very limited resources. You get extra points if the two institutions get zero access to confidential information, while still identifying bad actors.
Our model created in Astrakode in under 1.5 hours
At this link (don’t forget to login into your AKB account first) you can see our own sample model done in AstraKode. It has been an amazing exercise and a great journey. Try out your own approach, see how AstraKode feels first-hand and what it can do.
There we can discuss this topic, brainstorm and critique code.
Weaponizing an enterprise blockchain in the war on drugs is a great aspiration that would change the life of many. This article is inspired by the very real opioid, quaalude and methamphetamine crisis.
It is important to say that tracing the supply is not sufficient. Moving damaging substances under-the-counter appears to be another important solution, as we understood it while researching for this article.
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