International Drug Ban Fuels Terrorist Groups – Anniken Karlyme Wullum

The political debate on prohibition against drugs has changed more, and faster, than most people could have anticipated. Tolerating others’ use of substances you would never even touch is liberal in its essence.

Every human has the right to decide what they want to do with their own bodies and lives as long as they don’t take away others’ freedom to do the same. That is the core of the liberal ideology. The users and abusers of narcotics are now to a larger degree viewed as ordinary people than they were before. The thought that a substance in itself is evil and forces the user to immoral choices, is on the retreat. Science is used in the drug debate in a much higher degree than earlier, and that shapes people’s perception of substance use. The international criminalization has led to many negative consequences; among the worst is the economic boost it has given to terrorists groups.

Of fifty-nine officially designated foreign terrorist organizations as defined by the US Department of State, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claims around half of them have been linked to some aspect of global drug trade, and there are theories that up to sixty present of all terror organizations are connected with the illegal narcotics trade. There are almost as many reasons as to why the terror organizations have chosen to get into global drug distribution, as there are terror organizations. The most important reason is thought to be economic. State sponsorship of terrorism is on the decline, and it is increasingly easy to identify private donors and to disrupt the flows of terror financing. Terrorist groups are therefore progressively in need of new funding mechanisms. The UN has estimated that the international drug trade generates $322 billion USD per year in revenue, which makes it by far the most lucrative illicit activity there is.

The extreme terrorist group internationally known as IS, ISIL or ISIS, use drug trafficking on a large scale to finance their war for an Islamic Caliphate. ISIS is thought to make up to one billion USD annually from sales and trafficking of Afghan heroin throughout its occupied areas, according to the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN). According to the director of FSKN, Viktor Ivanov, the areas for growing poppy are expanding, and they are expecting to hear about a record high production this year. He also claims that over half of Europe’s heroin now comes from the terror group ISIS. FSKN says this is a threat to international as well as European security, and should be taken seriously.

One effective way to reduce terrorist groups’ income would be legalization of all illicit substances. To understand why this is a solution, we must accept the fact that drug use will never cease to exist, and that all human beings have the right to decide for themselves if they want to use those substances or not. With legalization of drugs, you have a possibility to regulate the drug market through the possibility for purity and quality control, age limits, and taxation that would otherwise be impossible. A regulated drug market with predictable prices and quality would undermine the profitability that fuels the illicit drug market today, and would be beneficial for both public security and the individual person’s right to decide over their own lives.


Anniken Karlyme Wullum is a member of Young Liberals of Norway, and the leader of the local branch in Trondheim. Twitter: @Geassi

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