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« HuffPo New Low | WILLisms.com | Islamist Elected President of Turkey »

This Is Your No-Brainer On Drugs

It seems like a no-brainer.

There is a worldwide shortage of opium used to make legal painkillers. Afghanistan produces more opium than any other country, and this year they have had a bumper crop, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) 2007 Annual Opium Survey:

In 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17% over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined). Favourable weather conditions produced opium yields (42.5 kg per hectare) higher than last year (37.0 kg/ha). As a result, in 2007 Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tons of opium (34% more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world’s deadliest drug (93% of the global opiates market).

The total opium harvest for the year was estimated at 8,200 tonnes, up from 6,100 tonnes last year, a 34 percent spike, it said. The harvest normally ends around late July.

The area planted with opium poppies had risen to 193,000 hectares (476,710 acres) from 165,000 in 2006, representing a 17 percent rise, it said.

Opium is then sold in an illicit trade that the Taliban uses to fund its terrorist operations:

The US is dangerously close to turning Afghanistan into the next Iraq," said Piper. "Forced eradication of opium crops is driving poor Afghans into the hands of our enemies, strengthening the Taliban, and feeding the insurgency there. The war on drugs is undermining the war on terror and pushing Afghanistan to the brink of civil war.

Truly, opium represents the 'sinews of war' for the Taliban, in a country where opium is virtually the only valuable export. It is the only sure way for them to raise money to wage war.

Therefore . . . in the name of fighting the Global War On Terror we buy up the opium crop and pay for it by selling much-needed legal morphine. Right?

Wrong, according to Ambassador Thomas Schweich, the U.S. coordinator for Afghan counternarcotics and justice reform. Licensing farmers to grow legalized opium puts Afghanistan in danger of (nay, guaranteeing) becoming a “narco-welfare state.” That is, farmers will still continue to produce opium for the much more lucrative illicit trade (at $138 per kilo) instead of the lower licensed trade (at $16-$49 per kilo). Licensing schemes in Turkey, and especially India, have shown that significant portions of the legal opium crop is subverted to illicit channels, leaving corruption in its wake. Only "massive subsidies" would bring the legal price up enough to entice all farmers to grow legal crops instead of illegal. (Isn't the U.S.federal government the heavyweight champ of subsidizing crops, however? Isn't fighting the War on Terror and starving the Taliban possibly the only legitimate reason to do so? Works better than ethanol in Afghanistan's case!) Moreover, massive legal subsidizing would ensure a diversion of all of Afghanistan's cropland to poppies, producing even larger yields.

Afghanistan's illegal opium trade comes to about $3.1 billion per year. I leave it to you to decide if buying it all would be a no-brainer or not.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 August 2007 03:21 AM


Afghanistan's illegal opium trade comes to about $3.1 billion per year.

Talk about 'chump change'. Too bad we have chumps running the asinine War.

The 'War On Drugs' that is. If the anti-war doofi want to protest a War that really does need stopping, then they should start protesting that one. And the really good thing is that they would not have to pretend that they 'support the troops but not the mission'. In this case the troops ARE the mission.

Evidently the accursed DEA is more important than WINNING a truly IMPORTANT real War.

3.1 Billion.

What a joke.

Anyone laughing ?

Posted by: dougf at August 28, 2007 11:10 AM

Actually, Poppies yield about three times more biodiesel per acre than soybeans. We could price the Drug Lords (the farmer doesn't get that big price) out of the market, and, probably, almost break even on the deal by converting the poppies into biodiesel.

Posted by: Rufus at August 29, 2007 12:15 PM