A Solution to the War on Drugs?

National Geographic ran a cracking article a couple of months ago - “Opium Wars” - in relation to what’s going down in Afghanistan. It was a tough article because it seems no one is winning there - well apart from the drug lords and the corrupt officials of course.

  • The local police and officials are being bombed, maimed, killed and terrorised
  • The local growers, just trying to feed their families, are starving whenever their crops get slashed by the officials, so quite rightly, they’re getting pissed off and supporting “the bad guys” all the while continuing to grow poppies no matter what
  • International troops trying to manage this situation are being attacked, injured and killed
  • The Taliban is getting billions of dollars to fund their war on whoever is pissing them off today, or innocents just getting in the way
Suffice to say, it’s a fucked situation and the drug is still making its way to market and screwing up even more lives. More of a worry though is that the supply has increased, driving prices down, which means more is available, so more are getting hooked, but what does that mean for the “end-user?” Dealers are cutting the drugs with dangerous substances to make more money. It’s a vicious chain of events, destroying entre generations....

Here’s an idea of how big the drug issue is in Afghanistan according to Wikipedia, and interestingly, it’s grown since the Taliban have been overthrown:

“Afghanistan is, as of March, 2010, the greatest illicit opium producer in the entire world, ahead of Burma (Myanmar) and the “Golden Triangle.” Afghanistan is the main producer of opium in “Golden Crescent." Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since U.S. occupation started in 2001. Based on UNODC data, there has been more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past four growing seasons (2004–2007) than in any one year during Taliban rule. Also, more land is now used for opium in Afghanistan than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 92% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This amounts to an export value of about $4 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords, drug traffickers. In the seven years (1994–2000) prior to a Taliban opium ban, the Afghan farmers' share of gross income from opium was divided among 200,000 families. In addition to opiates, Afghanistan is also the largest producer of hashish in the world.

Then this week AVAAZ announced that, as a result of their petition presented to the UN, along with the support of Richard Branson (nice one Sir,) “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has decided to create a task force to look at new solutions to the problem of drugs.” Apparently “any debate around ending the war on drugs has been quashed. In official circles, it's "taboo" to talk the about regulation or decriminalisation” and many have lost their jobs when trying to get discussions going.

So the “War on Drugs,” which is expected to cost the US government alone US$23.44 billion in 2011 and has seen trillions make its way into organised crime, and only now they’ve decided it’s time to “talk” about it?

Does that strike anyone else as completely insane?

But look at the figures – the export value out of Afghanistan is US$4 billion, and the cost of the war on drugs is US$23.44 billion, and while I appreciate that this figure is global (and that the US is also dealing with drug issues closer to home in South and Central America,) the farmers in Afghanistan, who are growing the opium, get US$1 billion for their work. And that brings me to a hopeful point, as maybe there is a solution - provided by a complete stranger living in the UK.

Mike Davis, from Cheltenham in England, wrote a letter to the editor of National Geographic this month and he said “why don’t we buy the crops ourselves and turn it not into heroin but into medical morphine, for which there is a great demand?”

Brilliant. Simple. Brilliant. Pay the families in Afghanistan more than the drug lords for the crop, their families get to eat and become our “friends,” we get a constant supply of morphine or whatever drug can be created to help humanity, and everyone wins, except the shitty guys selling it up the illegal drug chain + the addicts who ain’t gunna be too happy, but hey, there’ll be more morphine available?

Simple is usually the best approach right?

But what would I know....

Yours, without the bollocks
Andrea
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