The geopolitics of opium
June 16, 2006 7:23 PM   Subscribe

So how's the War on Drugs proceeding in Afghanistan? Barry McCaffrey, former drug czar, trumpets, "Opium production has been dramatically slashed by 48% just in the past year[2005].". Oops, actually that's the acreage of opium cultivation; production went down by only 10%, due to increased yields. In any case, that's so last year. Instead of the socially detrimental policy of poppy eradication, wouldn't it be preferable to allow licensing of poppies for legitimate medical needs? The Afghan farmers agree, but some think the idea is flawed.
posted by daksya (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From the last article:

n June 1906, Charles Henry Brent, the first Protestant Episcopal Church bishop of the Philippines and a staunch opponent of the opium trade, wrote to president Theodore Roosevelt to ask for the United States to call an international conference to enforce anti-opium measures in China.

Hah. That's pretty funny given that We (Well, mostly the british) actually fought a war to keep the opium trade flowing over there just like 40 years prior.
posted by delmoi at 7:28 PM on June 16, 2006

i bet we're getting a cut of the money
posted by amberglow at 7:36 PM on June 16, 2006

Why don't we just stop pretending growing plants is a bad thing?
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 7:41 PM on June 16, 2006

If God had meant for man to use opium he would have allowed it to grow in nature.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:46 PM on June 16, 2006

C'mon. if we made it legal how could the CIA get their cut? You guys really aren't thinking about this practically.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:49 PM on June 16, 2006

McCaffrey has always been a joke once his military career ended. I'll never forget when he was US Drug Czar (umm, they might want to consider changing that title), he went on CNN or some media outlet to trumpet the "War on Drugs," how things were going so incredibly well thanks to stiffer sentences for 15 year-old kids caught with joints (and this was in the late 1980's, when the murder rate in American cities was at an all-time high). The reporter asked him about countries with decriminalization, like Holland. McCaffrey stated, with the confidence that only the utterly ignorant can muster, that Holland was an unmitigated disaster, and that junkies roamed the streets terrorizing the poor Dutch.

Yeah, the guy's a grade-A douchebag. Not that drug addiction isn't a problem for many countries, but it's priceless when a drug-addled nation like the US tells the rest of the world how they should conduct their business.

Anecdotally, I've heard heroin users domestically are happier than ever due to the increased quality and the decreased price of smack. They can thank Bush II.
posted by bardic at 7:51 PM on June 16, 2006

bardic: He was drug czar in the late 90s.

Anecdotally, I've heard heroin users domestically are happier than ever due to the increased quality and the decreased price of smack

Not quite.
posted by daksya at 7:59 PM on June 16, 2006

Not quite.

daksya: according to the article the problem is the drugs are too good, or rather are mixed with synthetic enhancements (in this case fentanyl) making for more risk, but (I would imagine) a better high for those who don't OD.
posted by delmoi at 8:03 PM on June 16, 2006

Hitch wrote a column on this some time ago: How the drug war is undermining the war on terrorism.
posted by homunculus at 9:05 PM on June 16, 2006

"It is becoming easier to manufacture mind-altering substances, and the Internet has spread that knowledge all over the world," said Martin Y. Iguchi, a professor of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles

That's it. Time to shut down teh Internet. It is clearly a force for evil, not good.
posted by spacewrench at 9:10 PM on June 16, 2006

Funny, the Taliban had already stopped opium growing several months before the U.S. invaded. What happened?
posted by davy at 9:46 PM on June 16, 2006

davy, from my third link:

British and American officials cannot resort to the tactics of the Taliban, which slashed poppy cultivation in 2001 by threatening to shoot farmers. But western efforts using less violent methods, such as encouraging farmers to grow legal crops, have proved fruitless.
posted by daksya at 9:49 PM on June 16, 2006

I heard that the punishments for popy growing were not nearly as bad as most of the taliban punishments. Farmers would be marched through town with a wreath of pods, etc.
posted by delmoi at 10:34 PM on June 16, 2006

Maybe mr McCaffrey should take not of what happened to a certain previous czar.
posted by atrazine at 5:48 AM on June 17, 2006

Could Afghanistan really compete with Tasmania?
posted by caddis at 6:07 AM on June 17, 2006

If the policies and attitudes surrounding prescription of opiates for medical purposes are rationalised, they won't need to.

From the last link:

"In 2003, six countries together accounted for 79% of global consumption of morphine" while "developing countries, which represent about 80% of the world's population, accounted for only about 6%" of its global consumption.
. . .
"even in these countries only 24% of moderate to severe pain-relief need was being met".

posted by daksya at 6:24 AM on June 17, 2006

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