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 School of Law. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and the study of popular political participation and its implications for constitutional democracy. He is the author of Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter (Stanford University Press, 2013), and coauthor of A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Somin has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the University of Hamburg, Germany, and the University of Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before joining the faculty at George Mason, Somin was the John M. Olin Fellow in Law at Northwestern University Law School in 2002-2003. In 2001-2002, he clerked for the Hon. Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Professor Somin earned his B.A., Summa Cum Laude, at Amherst College, M.A. in Political Science from Harvard University, and J.D. from Yale Law School.