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Southwest Asia: Proposal for Turning Afghan Opium Into Legal Morphine Gains Support

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #454)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

A proposal to license Afghanistan's illegal opium production and turn it into morphine for the legitimate global medicinal market picked up more support this week as the Italian Red Cross and the Afghan Red Crescent launched a campaign to promote the idea. While so-far scoffed at by the governments of Afghanistan, the US, and the NATO countries, the carefully researched licensing proposal from the Senlis Council, a European security, development, and drug policy think tank, has already won backing from some political figures in England and from the Italian government.

the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
The United Nations reported less than three weeks ago that despite ongoing eradication efforts, Afghan opium cultivation had increased a whopping 60% and would produce an all-time record 6,100 tons of opium this year. Afghanistan currently accounts for 92% of illicit opium production worldwide.

According to the UN, some 2.9 million Afghans are involved in opium growing, representing more than 12% of the population. The crop will bring in an estimated $3 billion this year, with farmers pocketing about $750 million and the rest going to traffickers and their allies, who range from the Taliban and Al Qaeda to government ministers, members of parliament, and provincial governors and warlords.

In a Monday press conference, the Italian Red Cross joined the campaign for the Senlis Council proposal. "This system we advocate provides for one part of the Afghan opium to be used to make legal morphine, rather than illegal heroin," Massimo Barra, president of the Italian Red Cross told reporters in Rome. To transform illicit poppy fields into licit ones would "reduce the importance of illegal practices in Afghanistan and would address the pain crisis in developing countries," where opium-based painkillers are needed to treat patients with cancer, AIDS and other diseases, Barra said.

The Afghan Red Crescent is also joining the call to adopt the Senlis proposal. The Crescent, the Italian Red Cross, and the Senlis Council also used the Monday press conference to announce the opening of a 50-bed hospital wing in Kabul for the treatment of drug addicts.

For Senlis Council executive director Emmanuel Reinert, who also addressed the press conference, eradication has proven ineffective and counterproductive because it is taking livelihoods away from hard-pressed farmers.

"Farmers right now do not have a choice; if they could, they'd want to do the right thing," he said, adding that it wouldn't be difficult to pay licensed farmers the equivalent of their net income from illegal cultivation. "The farmers will have the same financial incentive," Reinert said.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

seems to me that regardless how much the good guys offer to pay for opium to produce analgesics, the bad guys will offer more to pass the stuff on to the illicit market. One just can't resolve the problem by a focus on supply if one ignores demand. And, of coruse, with all that new incremental legal opium products, who says the INCB will "permit" coutnries aroiund the world to buy it?

Anyway, meanwhile, what a boon this plan would be for the golden triangle farmers! Wow - I wish someone sold futures on the opium production ouside afghanistan if this plan ever is put into practice! bob newman

Fri, 09/22/2006 - 11:47am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Man.. That does look tasty.

Fri, 09/22/2006 - 1:15pm Permalink
David Dunn (not verified)

The Senlis Council's report to legalize opium make more sense than the War on Drugs. However, legalizing opium just to make morphine might not be a large enough market to support all the opium farmers.

The Senlis Council also reported that “Without alternative means of livelihood, farmers are unable to give up growing poppy.” SENLIS

So why not also legalize hemp? Hemp could be competitive with poppies. Not only can hemp produce a wide variety of highly nutritious foods, it is also the best source for alternative energy. Too, there are over 50,000 products and medicines that can be made from it.

Legalizing both opium and hemp would be a major blow to the illicit drug trade that is “the largest source of terrorists' income…” COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

The world’s nations need to legalize all things hemp to give farmers an alternative means of livelihood that can compete with narcotic crops. Legalizing all things hemp would be a major blow to international terrorism.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." - Thomas Jefferson

Fri, 09/22/2006 - 2:07pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

HELLLOOOOO??? This is already being done. Companies like Mallinckrodt Pharmaceutical in the USA have been LEGALLY buying and importing OPIUM from Afghanistan and other countries for YEARS. They use it to make morophine, among other things. The morophine is sold to the US military for soldiers to use in the field if they get badly hurt. It's a pre-made injection device that already has the dose inside.

Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:28pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I would like to have more information pertaining to the US purchase of Afghanistan opium, where could I find details for your statement. It would very much assist me with research I am doing. Thank you for your assistance.

Sat, 03/03/2007 - 10:23am Permalink

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