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It isn't the first time that someone has suggested that a simpler and safer solution might be to buy the crops and put the opiates to medicinal use. It seems to be an idea that merits some serious consideration

The attraction of Mr Ellwoods proposal is less about any impact it has on global opium production but more about enabling concentration of effort against the influence of the Taliban/Al Qaeda and on development. It is a near impossible task to try to eradicate opium production and reduce the Taliban. The latter is the higher priority task so this proposal is worth consideration.

The transformation of Turkish opium production to legal status has radically reduced the illegal opium produced there, reduced the influence of drug gangs and is viewed as a success.

Hovever it had little effect on global illegal production (which increased elsewhere to make up the deficit). Limiting demand raises prices so attracting more growers. It is likely that illegal opium production in Burma & central asian countries will increase if Afghanistan production is taken off the world market.

The press release which the BBC based their article on has just popped up on the party website. It makes a point of noting that DC was "donning body armour" and how dangerous the area is.

This isn't the ideal solution to the problem of Opium production in Afghanistan but I am fast beginning to think it is the only possible solution.

With such a vast landmass, it is just impossible to control the crop. Additionally, I've always had a problem with the ethnics of destroying the crops of Opium farmers - the elimination of their crops also leads to the elimination of their family’s income.

An interesting put forward by Nirj Deva was to directly buy the stocks of Poppy crop from Afghan farmers and burn them after harvesting. There is also the potential for using the poppy crop to process into medical morphine of which there is currently a huge shortage in Europe.

I think everyone would agree that coalition Governments that are currently engaged in Afghanistan should be doing a lot more than they are at the moment to encourage agricultural diversification.

If people are silly enough to smoke opium, why stop them? Providing they aren't entitled to free treatment on the NHS they will only be harming themselves. Yes, it may psychologically harm their friends and family but so do a lot of legal things and the government doesn't step in to prevent it.

As I posted on another thread, there are people suffering from terminal cancer which is excruciatingly painful, dying in agony due to the shortage of diamorphine,(made from opium poppies)This shortage could be overcome by buying up the opium poppy crops. I am with Tobias Ellwood on this.
It could well be, that if the drug barons try to shift operations to Burma and central asian countries, they would be easier to control there. Jungle not mountains. High risk of earthquakes and tsunamis disrupting production. The local rulers not welcoming. Local militias not so clever as the Afghanies!
It is indeed worth thinking about seriously.

For the record I'm playing Devil's advocate rather than genuinely supporting the legalisation of all drugs. I certainly wouldn't advise putting it in a manifesto.

It would be easy to criticise Ellwood but I won't.Paying the farmers off for their crop will hopefuly turn the farmers away from the Taleban and would also for a while at least give government contol over the majority of our heroin trade .
Whilst morally repulsive the stakes are very high and a 'win' in Afghanistan and a chance to reduce heroin addiction in this country may make this a price worth paying.

Richard! All drugs was not mentioned. Redirecting the opium poppy crop to be used by the NHS and the Hospice movement was.
Ted! Does the opium poppy grow as well in Burma as it seems to do in Afghanistan? My gardening book says it needs "poor to moderately fertile soil, and a position in full sun" I always thought Burma was mostly jungle. Highly dense, covered, soggy etc!

"Richard! All drugs was not mentioned."
It was implied in my post above. I put forward the "people should be able to smoke opium if they want to" argument which can logically be extended to other substances. I thought the pure libertarian argument ought to be heard.

If people are silly enough to smoke opium, why stop them?

You find it improves your driving do you Richard ?

Why not inject it as heroin instead ?


Yes, the pure libertarian argument ought to be heard, but is a different debate entirely and I would argue absolutely not one to be raised in conjunction with debate on Mr Ellwood's proposal. Confuse the debate, and not only will the proposal be spun & ridiculed as being a soft-on-drugs type thing (such, unfortunately, is the maturity of the debate on drugs issues...).

These proposals have a lot of merit as far as I can see.

The Afghan farmers have one high-value cash crop - opium poppies. There are two worldwide markets for them - one legal, to enable drugs firms to manufacture powerful pain killers, and one illegal - i.e. heroin.

If the legal market is leveraged, then the farmers (& the Afghan economy) have a viable legal source of income and the Taleban power base is weakened. The farmers also become visible, and the regime effectively policed.

Effective policing of the market is going to be the key, but one difficulty is that drugs warlords/Taleban/etc are not the kind of customers that it is easy for a farmer to walk away from.

Not sure I like Nirj Deva's suggestion that sounds suspiciously like a UK/US funded Common Agricultural Policy for Afghanistan (buy the harvest off the farmers, now matter how much, then destroy it).

However, Tobias Ellwood's policy looks sound. The world is crying out for opiate-based medicines. Afghanistan is very good at producing opium, and not very good at producing much else. Seems a good match to me.

"You find it improves your driving do you Richard ?

Not having touched the stuff I wouldn't know.

"Why not inject it as heroin instead ?"

You tell me.


Opium grows better in countries like Turkey, Afghanistan, the ex Soviet stans but Burma remains a major source (mostly from the tribal highlands).
Opium poppies pop up all over my garden wherever I've disturbed the soil as they do in many UK gardens - think they don't get enough sun for good crops of opium so aren't illegal in UK.

Adam @ 16.17 - "Afghanistan is very good at producing opium, and not very good at producing much else"

Despite the poverty (or as some would say, because of the poverty) Afghanistan is also very good at producing children. Estimated 6.7 born per woman, 45% of the population aged 0 - 14 years, population growth rate estimated at 2.7% pa, ie population doubles every 26 years. That will be a drag on economic progress, but there's not much that can be done about it in the short to medium term.

Not reducing the farmers to destitution seems a good idea.

It would be as well just to legalise on a licensed basis and tax most of the drugs that are currently illegal - this would raise revenue for the state, reduce crime by reducing prices - a lot of robbery now is simply for the purpose of obtaining money for drugs and of course there is little point trying to stop people doing these things when they'll just find something else enyway like glue sniffing or aerosols or something else so why not let them destroy themselves in their own way and free the police to deal with other crimes and of course it would help regenerate many developing countries; I rather favour having a single minimum age of 17 for purchase of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.

Despite the poverty (or as some would say, because of the poverty) Afghanistan is also very good at producing children.
It's a big country so there's plenty of space for them to go, it's rather underpopulated at the moment if anything - India, China and Iran have all seen rapid economic growth along with a growing young population and maybe Afghanistan will as well?

You know, that is not a bad idea. We could then sell the opium to China. It would be just like old times!

Well I suppose that if the opium crop was bought up in entirety (although I can foresee several problems with that), and that the weapons obssessed Taliban were weakened, and therefore general education which included women actually got a chance to flourish, then women would be more active in the economy, and they probably wouldn't have so many children. After all what else do they have to do under Taliban domination.

One of the problems that might arise with a western oriented group buying up the total opium crop, would be fixing prices so that other vested interests with LOTS of money to invest and a total disregard of humanity, didn't get in with a higher offer.

Also it is not just a simple matter of buying up the opium crop and hey presto the growers suddenly have enough money to buy the things they sometimes dreamed of owning in the past. That would only lead to instability. So some sort of infrastucture would have to be put in place that could provide a stable change over. Otherwise we all know the sort of people who are waiting in the wings in neighbouring Pakistan to interfere!

China's emergence as a major economic power is directly related to the (pretty harsh) population control measures introduced in the 1960's - in fact the problem of an ageing population is now on the horizon. India has not been so successful in that regard. Iran has oil, that makes a big difference to the rate of population increase which can be sustained without degrading per capita GDP. It's not just a matter of space, it's a matter of easily useable and productive space - if there were virgin fertile prairies awaiting the plough that would also be another matter.

But in any case when half the population are children it takes a lot of effort just to feed and raise them, leaving less for developing the economy.

Ellwood is right, and quite brave. I say we pay top dollar to the growers, appeal to their capitalist instincts, and recognise that playing the Western morality card with a couple of dozen Paras and dodgy kit is a one-way ticket to a failed mission.

So long as opium is needed in medicine, the crop and the croppers should be respected as worthwhile providers. No need for embarrassment here, but also no need to make it a manifesto subject.

It's not just a matter of space, it's a matter of easily useable and productive space
Russia and Kazakhstan though are both interested in using Afghanistan to pipe gas through and had signed major agreements with the taleban to do so, so even though Afghanistan has virtually no oil, gas or minerals it still has some prospects for obtaining money through access agreements.

If order could be established it would eventually possibly even become a possible tourist destination, Kashmir has some similar problems although not not to the same extent.

Good on Tobias. End the drug war!

Tobias Ellwood was an early supporter of DC and as a whip wouldn't normally be expected to attract national publicity. I wonder if he has had a nod from the leadership to float this idea to see if it's a goer before they pick it up and run with it or drop it.

well , i'm all for free trade but opium... hmmm not sure.

Why are we telling another country what crops to grow? The drug war has to simply end. Declare abject loss, shut it down and just stop.

Every human is a self-owner, and there is no right to choose - democratically or otherwise - what substnces other people may ingest.

If drug users get wasted commit crimes, /prosecute the crime/. Not the drugs. Liberty and responsibility go together.

Actually it was not only my colleague Nirj Deva's suggestion but a combined approach following our amendment in the Foreign affairs Committee to the Afghanistan Report and which we both spoke to on 12th February in a debate before Commissioner Chris Patten on Afghanistan.
This is what I said and sadly 2 years on nothing much ahs changed to change my views!
"Sadly Afghanistan has been slightly forgotten about in the aftermath of the Iraq war. A lot of resources will be needed to rebuild the country, and the EU is a large donor; in my view this entitles us to lay down significant political conditions, including demanding progress in human rights, particularly women's rights to education and access to the workforce. I also regret the new Constitution, which gives primacy to Sharia law over international, UN, civil, and political treaty obligations, which may cause conflict over areas such as female lapidation.

I am concerned at the lack of security and the necessary concentration of ISA forces in Kabul to protect the government. There have been significant regroupings of Taliban and al-Qa'ida forces bent on murdering international aid workers in the provinces, which will set back progress. I do not believe President Musharraf is doing enough to rein in terrorist groups in Pakistan's tribal areas and north-west frontier provinces; this is ostensibly because Islamabad's writ does not run to these parts. More must be done if he is to have credibility in the fight against international terrorism.

I was delighted that the Bactrian gold treasures were recovered and I would like to see funds devoted to the reconstitution of the National Museum in Kabul as a symbol of national pride under the patronage of the royal family, which is a benign uniting force in the land.

Lastly, on the subject of the opium crop, my amendment has suggested consideration being given to buying and burning or using it for medical purposes as a painkiller, as a cheaper alternative to drug enforcement measures by the international organisations dedicated to fighting the drug trade and business. It would save the international community a lot of money to burn it and pay the farmers, instead of spending many billions of dollars fighting the drug trafficking trade.

They say every dog has his day and this dog had his today~

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