Monday, September 03, 2007

Poppy fields

Daniel Hannan again touches on a subject that I've mentioned before. Namely that the criminalisation of the opium trade worldwide causes us far more problems than it is worth. Legalise the production, regulate the market and purchase the produce. That way, the poppy producers become small farmers, producing a cash crop - as Hannan says, a more orderly and conservative bunch than smallholders is hard to find.
The DK in the comments advocates the legalisation of drugs generally - a policy I've always thought more sensible than the current alternative - but you wouldn't even need to be this radical. There's a huge market for the legal product of opiates - morphine, novocaine, lidocaine and so forth. There's a global shortage of analgesics and a limited supply (Tasmania is the world's largest producer of legal opiates).
Taking poppy production in Afghanistan out of the hands of the Taleban and introducing a legal market looks like a no-brainer. At the moment troops' primary role is as destroyer of crops - for which read livelihoods. Vast amounts of money are being spent on an inherently impossible job. It's akin to sending out the army to lower the sea level by giving each of them a bucket.
Is there a cogent objection to this? Convertion of the Afghan poppy fields from illegal opium production to legal opium production should easily be feasible. The farmers would probablt get a better deal - they're not the ones benefiting from the profits of the drug trade after all - and the army in Afghanistan could move from oppressive job-destroyers to a more constructive role. Someone please tell me why this wouldn't work.

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Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

Quite right!

Although, on a technical note, lidocaine and novocaine are not opiates: they are alkaloids and are not derived from poppies. The nearest plant from which they could be derived is coca (from which we get their alkaloid cousin, cocaine).


12:56 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

Which looks like a jolly good argument for applying the same logic to South America...

10:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an economic conservative and social libertarian. ie ( confused with no candidate). I could not have defined the situation better myself. Excellent consensus. But, will it cost jobs ( dea, prison, enforcement, miltary, etc) if it does, then your idea is far from reality albeit a sensible idea and one that will absolutely work. Which is why the powers that be won't allow it to materialize.

Sad but true. :(

2:16 pm  

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