Pubdate: Sun, 24 Apr 2016
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2016 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Note: By The Washington Post


The Islamic State and its terrorist proxies would suffer if cannabis 
were decriminalized, Italy's top prosecutor argues.

In a recent interview, Franco Roberti also pointed out the links 
between the extremist group and organized crime in his country.

Roberti is Italy's anti-terrorism and anti-mafia chief, a joint 
portfolio that was created last year. He said decriminalizing 
marijuana - or even making it legal - would dent the illicit networks 
that profit from its sale and production.

The Islamic State, in particular, gleans money off smuggling routes 
from parts of Libya into Europe.

"Decriminalization or even legalization would definitely be a weapon 
against traffickers, among whom there could be terrorists who make 
money off of it," Roberti said.

He said Italy's mafia makes an estimated $ 36 billion annually from 
the illegal drug trade; narcotics accounts for almost 10 percent of 
the Islamic State's funding, according to a report cited by Reuters.

"International terrorism finances itself with criminal activities 
that are typical of the mafia, like drug trafficking, smuggling 
commercial goods, smuggling oil, smuggling archaeological relics and 
art, kidnapping for ransom and extortion," Roberti said.

Italian authorities have been investigating suspected links between 
the proxies of terrorist groups and Italian mafia families, which 
oversee a variety of criminal activity - drugs, gun-smuggling, 
forgery of identity papers.

"Naples has been, for many years, a central logistics base for the 
Middle East. The Camorra is also active in the world of jihadist 
terrorism that passes through Naples," Roberti said, referring to the 
main mafia organization in the Italian city. "Naples lends itself to 
this type of activity. In the past there have been contacts between 
jihadi militants and the Camorra clans."

In the face of this complicated and shadowy threat, a wider war on 
drugs seems counterproductive, he said.

"We spend a lot of resources uselessly. We have not succeeded in 
reducing cannabinoid trafficking. On the contrary, it's increasing," 
Roberti said. "Is it worth using investigative energy to fight street 
sales of soft drugs?"

Advocates of marijuana legalization and other drug policy reforms 
have made this sort of argument for years. But there are signs that 
it is now gaining wider traction.

An open letter signed by more than 1,000 prominent world figures, 
including British tycoon Richard Branson and Democratic presidential 
hopeful Bernie Sanders, was recently delivered to U. N. Secretary 
General Ban Ki-moon. It urged the end of the "disastrous" global war on drugs.

"Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, ( existing 
anti-drug policies) created a vast illicit market that has enriched 
criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive 
violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral 
values," the letter says.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom