Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A poppy by any other name ...

The BBC chats with an opium smuggler as part of a series on Afghanistan. According to the article, 60% of Afghanistan's GNP comes from opium.

How on earth do you beat that? You don't. And really, you have to weigh some things out: is the damage heroin does to junkies worse than what would happen to impoverished Afghanis if we took away two-thirds of their income?

Well, the US isn't too worried about that. According to the Christian Science Monitor, even though there is a worldwide shortage of opiates for legitimate drug production, they (and the Afghan government) are against legalizing the trade:

"Anything that went about legalizing an opiate in that market would send exactly the wrong message. It would suggest that there is something legitimate to growing."

Let's be honest here: nothing outside the creation of an extremely cheap synthetic opiate is ever, ever going to end the opium production of Afghanistan or the other major opium producer, Myanmar, which I just learned existed. American allies Turkey and India lead the world in legal opiate production. Opium is one of the oldest and most useful drugs in the world; we have receptors for it in our brain.

And: Wasn't the world a better place when it was filled with opium addicts, not heroin addicts? Much like cocaine versus coca leaf tea, the strengthening of opium into heroin benefits smugglers, not users (it's harder to sneak in 10 tons of opium than the one ton of heroin it boils down to). And, much like cocaine, white people messing with brown people sure helped muck it all up.

Ah, these are old arguments. They're worn thin. But people just won't listen. They just don't care. Drugs cannot be legal. No matter what. No matter how much you might enjoy a tipple of opium tea, you can't have it. (Well, maybe you can). But go on out there and score some 90% pure black tar if you want.

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