Why buy­ing il­le­gal drugs is im­moral

Il­le­gal drug pur­chases sup­port evil or­ga­ni­za­tions that sup­port crimes against the in­no­cent

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Jef­frey James Hig­gins

Pur­chas­ing il­le­gal drugs is an im­moral act, re­gard­less of where one stands in the le­gal­iza­tion de­bate. When drugs are legally pro­hib­ited, crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions as­sume con­trol of pro­duc­tion and distribution, mak­ing vi­o­lence in­her­ent in the process. Drug pro­ceeds are used to fund crim­i­nal and ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, en­abling them to mur­der in­no­cent peo­ple, at­tack po­lice and mil­i­tary, bleed our tax dol­lars, and de­stroy the rule of law.

Drugs are a ma­jor source of in­come for ter­ror­ist groups and other crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions, due to the high profit mar­gins in th­ese il­le­gal mar­kets. For ex­am­ple, one kilo­gram of heroin costs $2,500-$5,000 in Afghanistan and it sells for $60,000-$90,000 in the United States. That same kilo­gram is worth ap­prox­i­mately $1.5 mil­lion af­ter is it di­luted and di­vided into in­di­vid­ual dosage units. Prof­its made from il­le­gal drug sales are also un­re­ported in­come, al­low­ing un­law­ful en­ter­prises to re­main in the shad­ows.

There is a strong nexus be­tween drug traf­fick­ing and ter­ror­ism. Ac­cord­ing to DEA’s FY2016 Per­for­mance Bud­get Con­gres­sional Sub­mis­sion, 22 of 59 des­ig­nated For­eign

Ter­ror­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tions had pos­si­ble ties to drug traf­fick­ing. This num­ber is prob­a­bly low, be­cause ev­i­dence is dif­fi­cult to ob­tain, and it doesn’t ad­dress two re­cently des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist groups. As an ex­am­ple, Afghanistan pro­duces most of the world’s opium, mor­phine, and heroin. In Afghanistan, drug pro­duc­ers, traf­fick­ers, and trans­porters have deep con­nec­tions to the Tal­iban, Haqqani Net­work, and other ter­ror­ist groups. Drug traf­fick­ers use ter­ror­ists for pro­tec­tion and ter­ror­ists use drug traf­fick­ers to fund their ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ter­ror­ism is not the only vi­o­lence as­so­ci­ated with drug traf­fick­ing. Crim­i­nal groups reg­u­larly com­mit crimes against hu­man­ity. For ex­am­ple, Mex­i­can or­ga­nized crime was re­spon­si­ble for an es­ti­mated 80,000 deaths be­tween 2006 and 2015, ac­cord­ing to a Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice re­port on Mex­i­can Or­ga­nized Crime and Drug Traf­fick­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tions. Vi­o­lent, transna­tional crim­i­nal gangs, such as Mara Sal­va­trucha (MS13) also fund their crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties through drug traf­fick­ing.

Vi­o­lence is in­evitable in il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity, es­pe­cially in busi­nesses like drug traf­fick­ing that in­volve large sums of money. Crim­i­nal groups ex­ist out­side of the ju­di­cial sys­tem; there­fore they have no re­course with po­lice or in the courts when they are vic­tim­ized by other groups. When a crim­i­nal group re­tal­i­ates against an­other, it en­gages in forms of trib­al­ism and an­ar­chism, where jus­tice is de­ter­mined by those most will­ing to use force. Drug deal­ers be­come modern war­lords, op­er­at­ing out­side of ac­cepted in­sti­tu­tions and so­ci­etal norms.

Drugs are not the only un­law­ful trade that should be avoided. For ex­am­ple, il­licit cigarette traf­fick­ing in the United States has been linked to ter­ror­ism fund­ing. Nu­mer­ous crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions have shown that prof­its from some il­licit cigarette sales sup­port ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing al-Qaeda. The Iran-backed Hezbal­lah, which was des­ig­nated by the U.S. De­part­ment of State as a For­eign Ter­ror­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion in 1997, has links to both un­taxed cigarette sales and drug traf­fick­ing. Hezbal­lah, which is also sup­ported by Iran, is re­spon­si­ble for ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties across the globe.

While there are com­pelling ar­gu­ments to le­gal­ize cer­tain drugs, the pol­icy ar­gu­ment needs to be di­vorced from the moral­ity of pur­chas­ing il­licit drugs. It’s ironic that many celebri­ties and pub­lic in­tel­lec­tu­als call for boy­cotts against cor­po­ra­tions, like Nike and Ap­ple, be­cause of the low pay and poor work­ing con­di­tions th­ese com­pa­nies of­fer work­ers over­seas, but some of the same peo­ple also openly ad­mit to buy­ing mar­i­juana il­le­gally. They don’t see the hypocrisy of con­demn­ing busi­nesses, while buy­ing mar­i­juana from Mex­i­can drug car­tels or heroin from the Tal­iban; both of which mur­der in­no­cent peo­ple. They mis­tak­enly jus­tify the pur­chase of il­le­gal drugs based on their be­lief that drugs should be le­gal­ized, while ig­nor­ing the fact that their ac­tions sub­si­dize mur­der.

The next time one con­sid­ers buy­ing il­le­gal drugs, one should con­sider that the money might be go­ing to Hezbal­lah, the Tal­iban, or a drug car­tel. If one be­lieves a spe­cific drug should be le­gal­ized, then one should en­cour­age leg­is­la­tors to change the law, not vi­o­late the law. Un­til the law is changed, il­le­gal drug pur­chases will con­tinue to sup­port evil men who com­mit acts of vi­o­lence against the in­no­cent.

Jef­frey James Hig­gins is a re­tired DEA su­per­vi­sory spe­cial agent, with 25 years of law en­force­ment ex­pe­ri­ence, and an ex­pert in narco-ter­ror­ism.


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