Thursday, 1 January 2009

A good idea, but ...

In The First Post today, a simple idea to solve several problems simultaneously.

Here's the idea: Legalise the Afghan opium crop by buying it from villages that sign up to a group purchase arrangement.

Why? A number of reasons:
  • At present the situation is getting worse; Afghanistan grows 60% more opium now than it did in 2003.
  • If a grower breaks ranks and sells on the black market, the whole village gets nothing, so the growers will police the sales without external forces constantly being involved.
  • The growers would get a guaranteed price, higher than they get from the drug traffickers.
  • Afghan politicians would not be subject to corruption from drug traders.
  • The Taliban would be without its main source of cash for arms and political influence.
  • Turkey and India have done this, eliminating the criminal trade in opiates.
  • Hospitals around the world will get cheap morphine, solving a serious shortage.
  • Western countries could return to the abandoned British practice of supplying heroin to addicts via doctors, eliminating the heroin black market overnight.
Sounds like a win-win on multiple fronts, doesn't it?

But the US has almost-religious objections to this idea, so I guess it won't work. US politicians see this as "giving in" and losing the "war on drugs", so they persist in trying to defeat the opium-financed Afghan forces, and carry on locking up thousands of addicted citizens while allowing the trade to continue. Maybe they think they can "win" in Afghanistan, like they did in Vietnam, or Iraq.

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