Why buying illegal drugs is immoral

The Washington Times

By Jeffrey James Higgins

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Immoral Illegal Drugs Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

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 (MS-13) 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.


4 thoughts on “Why buying illegal drugs is immoral”

  1. Interesting, Jeffrey. And I hear your point. And you mention that you aren’t really discussing the morality of the law here. But they go hand in hand. If a law is immoral, is it not the moral man’s obligation to disobey such a law? It was wrong for Nazis to make laws allowing people to be sent to concentration camps. It was wrong for Pol Pot to make laws that killed 1/4 of his population. It is wrong for politicians to make laws that effectively enslave their citizens to their whims. Law and Morality should align, but they frequently don’t, because laws are enacted by the politicians, a profession that as a collective is like highly distilled sociopathy. Many of them (not all) are the worst of humanity, not the best, and capable of lying (and eager to lie) without conscience, and routinely gaslight and manipulate. Yes it is important to change the laws against victimless crimes (including de-criminalizing the sticking of whatever nasty junk in your own body that you want). Yes it is important to fight to change the many unjust laws out there. But let’s remember that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to obey” (Paul Rosenberg’s revision of the Edmund Burke line.) It is the criminalization of the drug trade that results in the high profits that supply the funds for the resulting violence, not the purchase of the goods. The immorality lies not in the individual making free choice, but in the politicians trying to inhibit free choice. It is the politicians’ immorality that most contributes to the opportunity for profit margins of the terrorists, don’t you think? If the free market had the drug trade, uninhibited by FDA and DEA, etc, and the nasty stuff was OTC, then the margins would fall, profits would become those of commodities (very low to zero) and the companies would be sued for their crappy product, and they would work to make the crappy product better. The free market solves many problems. Heroin is a terribly flawed product, no doubt about that, and very dangerous. Even worse than mountain climbing and race car driving. Opium brought by the Brits truly decimated China more than a century ago, sure. It’s a problem. But I would suggest that it is a problem that needs to be fixed using moral means, as opposed to the violent means that the politicians so readily use.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You make some excellent points about the morality of the law. My point here is that when an activity is criminalized, violence becomes an inherent part in that activity. Even if one does not agree with a law, one is not absolved from the moral consequences of breaking the law. There is a legal process to change laws and that is preferable to allowing each individual to decide which law to follow.

  2. Very well written analysis of the harm caused by supporting terror and criminal activity when purchasing drugs. The message is both direct and clear. The content is well organized and directly on point. Good work.

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