Friday, February 20, 2009

Boston Globe - End Heroin Prohibition

Yes. You read that right. The Boston Globe says end heroin prohibition.

THE OBAMA administration is committing 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Yet as the United States works to stabilize that country, the most important decisions don't just involve troop and funding levels. Also vital is ending the prohibition on growing opium poppies - for the policy is a key factor in Afghanistan's economic and security crisis.
Of course the paper is only suggesting ending opium and heroin prohibition in Afghanistan. But still. It is a start.
Since the US invasion in 2001, the American and Afghan governments have made the poppy-growing areas of Afghanistan, which produce 90 percent of the world's opium, a major front in the war on drugs. Yet despite eight years of efforts to eliminate the crop, farmers keep growing poppies, and the crop still reaches the black market.

Earlier this month, the United Nations released a report anticipating lower poppy production in 2009 and touting the fact that some provinces have been declared poppy-free as a sign of success. This claim is deceptive. While some provinces that were comparatively new at growing poppy are now poppy-free, the crop is still entrenched in areas of southern Afghanistan, where it has historically been a significant part of the economy. In these areas, eradication will be much more difficult if not impossible.

Eradication is not just an ineffective strategy, but also hurts the security interests of Afghanistan and Western governments. While the United States invests $1 billion in eradication efforts each year, the Taliban profits by purchasing poppy from farmers who have no one else to sell to, and selling it to the black market. Also, the eradication policy fuels anti-Western hatred when farmers become sympathetic to insurgent groups after the US and Afghan governments burn or spray their only source of income.
You destroy people's livelihood and they get mad at you. Murderously mad. Who could have guessed it? Me for one. Here in March of 2005 and here in May of 2006 and here in October of 2006 and here in November of 2006 and here in November of 2008 and another one here in November of 2008 and here in January of 2009.

Good to see the national press in the US finally figuring out something any reasonable person should have seen 3 or 4 years ago. Better late than never.

And what was I saying not long after 9/11? "Do you support drug prohibition because it finances criminals at home, or because it finances terrorists abroad?" So if you were really awake you could have seen this coming over seven years ago. Our war on drugs was bound to clash with our war on terror. The war on drugs finances terrorists (among others) and is incommensurate with defeating them.

As is usual in life: choices must be made.

And do not forget that the opium poppy was very much intertwined with an earlier war the US was involved in. You can read all about it in: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. This is not the first war where people we were trying to ally with were involved in the opiate trade. Perhaps we are smarter now. I hope so.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


tomcpp said...

Do you really expect people to believe the taliban would be easier to defeat if their "subjects" were allowed to do drugs ?

Drugs bring their society down even more, as any 5-year-old knows. It will also further criminalize and make their people even bigger losers than they already are.

Yes, they need something to do. Too bad machines are cheaper, better, and don't blow up kindergartens (or buddha statues for that matter).

M. Simon said...

Well yeah Tom. Drugs are evil. No doubt. And they sap a man's will. Just think about that Edison guy. What could he have been if he wasn't an opium addict. Or that Wm. Halsted. Founder of modern surgery. What a bunch of losers.

But even assuming you are right and it is the drugs and not the prohibition bringing us down perhaps you can answer a question. It is obvious that addiction is a medical problem. Are the police in the best position to solve medical problems?

BTW how did we survive from the country's founding until 1914 with opiates legal over the counter medicine? Heroin even. And it was as cheap as aspirin.

Anonymous said...


Wow. So you are trying to use Edison and Halsted as examples of how productive a person can be, despite being addicted to heroin? That's your argument??? So, tell us, how long is the list of people whose lives have been utterly unproductive and destroyed by that drug? Let me clue you in a bit: it's a hell of alot longer than your list.

You need to get out of that little apartment and visit the real world. Why don't you go to drug rehab center and talk to some of the patients there -- find out what they have experienced. Find out how great their lives are because of the drugs you want legalized.

But then again, I'm sure it's alot easier for you just to write another blog entry while claiming expertise in yet another area that you have no expertise whatsoever.

Rock on, Mr. Claven.

Snake Oil Baron said...

If heroin and crack were legal I would personally not be rushing out to the store to purchase them. Is protecting people from the risks of their own actions really the job of vast armies of cops and bureaucrats? Are massive criminal organizations more accountable for safety and responsible sales than the private sector? For all the "marketing to kids" criticism against tobacco companies, have you ever heard of them sending people to schools and playgrounds offering kids free samples of their product?

Christophe said...

Heh heroin addiction vs private sector ... what could possibly go wrong ?

Guess it's been a while when a manager could say to someone he threatened to fire "if you murder out your family you get to keep your job" and the guy would actually do it.

That's the sort of things heroin makes possible.

tomcpp said...

I say we simply ask mr. Simon to put his money where his mouth is. We will ask him to inject himself three times with what kids consider a "normal" dose these days. Something he suggests millions of people should do.

Then we put him in a locked room with lunch, toiletpaper and a gameboy for a week.

I will eat my words if he lasts 2 days without banging on the walls. (or a week without breaking his own arm in a bid to get the door open with pity). Of course, you might want to consider the consequences, and the VERY extremely unpleasant life you'll have for quite a while after that if you're wrong ...

Heh maybe, if you're wrong, you'll actually kill your wife or kids. After that we'll ask you about free will.

M. Simon said...

"if you murder out your family you get to keep your job"

We used to get that in the 1920s with alcohol. The drug must be losing its potency. And something happened in 1914 that made people start murdering for it.

You know. I wonder if there is a connection there. Not likely.

Hoots said...

Looks like you're getting beat up in the comments here. You already know this, but pay no attention to stuff squirting from closed minds.

Your post reminds me of something Michael Yon posted about two and a half years ago regarding Opium production in Afghanistan. Like everyone else, he saw how critical opium production is to their economy. Opium is the petroleum of Afghanistan.

His suggestion also has merit: get the global pharmaceutical companies involved. Here is the post I put up at the time. The link to "Senlis Council" is still active but the name of the outfit has changed. I haven't read the new stuff closely, but this is an important piece of information to go along with your post.

M. Simon said...


I do think the idea of buying up the crop is a good one. However, unless that is used to supply the black market you will still have a Taliban problem.

On top of that a real legal market for opium would destroy the profitability of that crop. That would have the advantage of making Afghanistan dependent on Western largess. At least for a while.