Pope Francis denounces the Mafia, but praises drug prohibition – the main source of the Mafia’s income

June 21, 2014

Today, Pope Francis denounced the Mafia and excommunicated its members from the Catholic Church. But just yesterday, he praised drug prohibition and refused to support any “yielding or compromise” on the issue of legalization. There is an obvious tension between these two positions. As the CNN article on the pope’s excommunication of the Mafia notes, the Sicilian Mafia – like many other organized crime and terrorist organizations – gets most of its revenue from the illegal drug trade.

The War on Drugs has been an enormous boon to organized crime around the world. If currently banned drugs were legalized, it would be a major blow to organized crime, just as the abolition of alcohol prohibition was back in 1933. Few consumers would prefer to buy their drugs from the Mafia or the Taliban if they could instead get them from legal sources. Pope Francis justifiably denounces the Sicilian Mafia as an example of “the adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.” But the drug policies he supports are a major cause of the evil that he condemns.

Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and popular political participation. He is the author of "The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain" and "Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter."
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