Canadians back legal poppy farms
Nearly 8 in 10 support turning Afghan crops into sources of medicines
Thursday, August 30, 2007
OTTAWA -- Britain's top diplomat in Canada has dismissed a poll, commissioned by the international think-tank that champions legalization of Afghanistan's contentious opium poppy crop, which shows that Canadians overwhelmingly support for the use of Afghan opium for medicinal purposes.
"It is a surprise that people reach for silver bullets," British High Commissioner Anthony Cary said in an interview Wednesday.
An Ipsos Reid survey of 1,000 Canadians, conducted on behalf of the Senlis Council, found that nearly eight in 10 Canadians (79 per cent) want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get behind an international pilot project that would help transform Afghanistan's illicit opium cultivation into a legal source for codeine, morphine and other legitimate pain medications for the international market.
The poll release comes two days after the United Nations' latest audit of the poppy-farming trade found that Afghanistan's production of opium, the key ingredient in heroin, has reached record levels in the six years that western nations have controlled the country.
Britain is a key Canadian ally in southern Afghanistan. It is responsible for Helmand Province, where the UN report found that poppy cultivation has increased 48 per cent, making it a bigger opium producer than any other single country in the world.
In neighbouring Kandahar province, where Canada's 2,500 troops are stationed, poppy cultivation rose by 32 per cent, the UN study found.
Cary noted that while opium production has been licensed in such places as Thailand and Turkey, it took 15 years to achieve such a system. Afghanistan simply lacks the infrastructure and regulatory framework to cultivate opium legally and to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers, he said.
The European-funded Senlis Council is headed by Canadian lawyer Norine MacDonald. The survey, conducted Aug. 14-16, also found that 82 per cent of respondents opposed the U.S.-led policy of chemical spraying to eradicate poppies. The survey has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007