“Most people talk about the drug issue as a health issue, a parenting issue, an addiction issue. But the truth is, it’s really a national-security issue. Addiction and abuse across the world is funding and fueling insurgents,” said DEA spokesman Rusty Payn.
Drug money funding terrorist groups has been a world problem for over a decade. It has recently resurfaced in the news because of a disturbing connection between synthetic drugs, some sold legally in the U.S., and terrorist in Yemen.
“I’ll be the first to admit that synthetics have been around for awhile. But our concept of the magnitude of the problem, even in the last few weeks, it’s increased,” said the DEA director of the Special Operations Division Derek Maltz. “And at the end of the day these drug dollars are going to places where they don’t like us very much. That’s not good.”
Synthetic drugs are dried plant matter that have been sprayed or infused with a mixture of chemicals. Since these manmade chemicals are easily changed to make multiple generations of the same drug, they aren’t controlled by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which makes them technically legal though definitely not fit for human consumption.
These “legal” drugs have become popular with teenagers because they are accessible, not easily detectable in drug tests, and perceived as safe since they are sold legally.
“These organizations do not care about life. They don’t care about liberty. They don’t care about the rule of law. What they care about is lining their pockets with cash on the backs of our young people,” said James Capra, DEA chief of operations.
It’s a chemical war delivered in a Trojan horse disguised as colorful packages with names like “Scooby Snax” and “Spice”.
The changing chemical structure of legal highs makes them even more dangerous than common drugs like marijuana. Those who smoke synthetic pot have 30-times greater risk of hospitalization compared to marijuana.
”For terrorists, the synthetic drug market is a two-for-one deal: Poison gets distributed in the West, and they make millions in the process,” said Maltz.
At least 20 terror organizations, which is almost half of the Department of State’s known foreign terrorists, are using the international drug trade for revenue.
Below is a map showing possible drug routes of a few terror organizations, the drugs they sell and profit from it.
Who is getting the drug money from synthetic drugs?
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) started “Project Synergy” back in December 2012 to help put a stop to synthetic drugs. Earlier this year, they seized one warehouse in Alabama that had sent $40 million in profits from synthetic drugs to Yemen.
“Millions of dollars flowing into Yemen? They’re not buying Girl Scout cookies,” said Maltz.
So far Project Synergy has resulted in 377 arrests, seized more than $80 million in cash and assets and hundreds of thousands packages of synthetic drugs.