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  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    poppy.jpg More than 15 years after the Western coalition ousted Afghanistan's Taliban regime, the scourge of illicit opium still dogs the country. At the same time, amid efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's opium industry, authorities in the U.S. and Australia are clamping down on addictive painkillers, leaving millions of people suffering pain without treatment worldwide. The situation has led to suggestions that it is time to revisit the solution opposed by key Western countries a decade ago: legalizing Afghanistan's opium production.

    In Afghanistan, still poor after years of economic development efforts, results of the government's nation-rebuilding endeavors have been mixed. There have been marked improvements in some welfare indicators like school attendance and infant mortality, but slowing growth in the tiny formal economy shows per capita gross domestic product of just $620 for the 31 million people and continuing high reliance on aid inflows and military assistance.

    The one sector that is booming is opium. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that Afghanistan's 2016 opium production was 4,800 tons, a 43% increase on 2015.

    This crop was entirely illicit and not included in the GDP calculations -- nor was the nearly $1 billion it would have earned the Afghan growers, minus some "tax" paid to the Taliban insurgency.

    The UNODC figures point to a massive failure of opium suppression efforts by foreign and international anti-narcotics agencies. In 2015, crops were destroyed on only 3,760 hectares out of 183,000 hectares planted with poppies. In 2016, UNODC thinks eradication teams got to only 355 hectares out of 201,000 hectares of poppy fields. reuters.jpg The U.S alone has spent $8.4 billion on counter-narcotics programs in Afghanistan. It has all been wasted.

    Dusting off an idea

    The time has come, perhaps, to dust off an idea that was comprehensively shot down a decade ago by the U.S. and some close allies, as well as international agencies whose officials have a vested career interest in the suppression approach to the opium industry.

    The London-based International Council on Security and Development for Afghanistan floated a plan in the early 2000s to trial licensed growing of opium, with the crop going into local production of medicinal painkillers like codeine and morphine.

    Over 2005 and 2006, the idea gained the interest of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and discussions involving several ministries on a pilot project that would involve experts on public health, agriculture, rural development and counter-narcotics.

    Original Source

    Written by: Hamish McDonald, Feb 13, 2017, Nikkei Asian Review

Recent User Reviews

  1. perro-salchicha614
    "Mixed bag"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Feb 14, 2017
    Good topic for discussion, although the article's take on Afghan opium legalization is a bit superficial compared to some of the other articles on this topic which have been posted here.


  1. Diverboone
    "The U.S alone has spent $8.4 billion on counter-narcotics programs in Afghanistan. It has all been wasted.". That's an understatement. 2001 opium production Afghanistan had almost disappeared by considering their past production. In comes the U S military and $8.4 billion later? Opium production has increase almost every year since the U S invasion.
    1. perro-salchicha614
      Right before the US invasion, the Taliban had reduced opium cultivation to almost nothing. Now the Taliban funds itself by trafficking in opium and heroin. Oh, the irony...
  2. aemetha
    It's a bit more complex than the article is able to fully elucidate too. While the industry may make $1 billion for growers, legalising it would not add $1 billion to GDP because the government does not control the entire country. The reality is that a fraction of production would be a part of a licit poppy growing operation and taxable. Having said that, a fraction is better than zero. The best way to stamp out poppy farming is to raise the standard of living. Poppy farming is only sustainable the way it is done in Afghanistan because the country is poor and labour is consequently cheap, if the standard of living is raised poppy farming becomes unsustainable and production drops. Simple. Increasing GDP and tax revenues is a part of that process, and so legalising for this reason makes some good sense if the goal is to eventually reduce poppy farming in Afghanistan.
  3. perro-salchicha614
    I don't think the economic or political conditions are very favorable to the development of a licit opium industry in Afghanistan at this point in time.

    The market value of licit opium is much lower than that of illicit opium, and for it to be profitable, large-scale mechanized farming of poppies is by far the most efficient option. Small-scale farmers in Afghanistan don't have any money to invest in expensive farming equipment, and no businessperson in their right mind would invest in a place as politically unstable as Afghanistan.

    The cost of the labor needed to harvest large fields of poppies by hand, even though it's low by our standards, would be too high for Afghan farmers to make a living selling the opium on the licit market. People would still sell the opium to the warlords, and trying to enforce the law in a place like Afghanistan would be a nightmare. There's also the issue of widespread government corruption, as many Afghan officials have a financial interest in maintaining the black market.
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