Decriminalization efforts target ISIL-Mafia partnership in marijuana trafficking

The decriminalization of marijuana would strike a huge blow against the Italian Mafia and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), the mob’s trafficking partners in North Africa, Italy’s top prosecutor said.

“Decriminalization or even legalization would definitely be a weapon against traffickers, among whom there could be terrorists who make money off of it,” Franco Roberti told Reuters.

Italy is wasting resources on fighting marijuana trafficking with little results, the country's top prosecutor said.
Italy is pumping resources into fighting marijuana trafficking with little results, the country’s top prosecutor said.

Citing estimates by the United Nations Office on Narcotics and Crime, Roberti said that Italian organized crime earns $36 billion per year from drug trafficking, which includes marijuana and hash (compressed cannabis resin). ISIL is said to get at least seven percent of its income from drug trafficking.

The main smuggling route for North African hash runs from Casablanca, Morocco, through Algeria and Tunisia to Tobruk in eastern Libya, Roberti said. The route goes through the coastal city of Sirte, which is controlled by ISIL.

“Certainly ISIL controls the Libya route; it controls the coast along the Gulf of Sirte,” said Roberti.

“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,” he said.

With security forces swamped by the smuggling of humans, cocaine trafficking, and international terrorism, investigators are spending too much time and energy to combat marijuana trafficking, said Roberti.

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

Italy’s laws against selling or growing cannabis are severe and can lead to imprisonment. A bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed legalizing marijuana possession and cultivation earlier this year, but it is not supported by the leaders of any major parties.

Roberti suggests that all of Europe, and not just Italy, should be considering a better use of investigative resources: “On decriminalization (of marijuana), there should be an Italian domestic debate, but also a European one.”

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