Monday, April 05, 2004
Fighting for the Right to Grow Poppies
Reuters reports today that Afghan poppy farmers will resist government efforts to destroy their poppy crops in the next several days. The poppy harvest is expected to be collected in less than a week, but the British, who are primarily responsible for drug policy in Afghanistan, will begin eradication efforts in a few days.
The farmers have protested the impending action by taking to the streets and lodging complaints with their local government officials. One farmer was quoted as saying "They will either destroy our harvests or kill us. We will not let them do this even if they send planes and tanks."
Farmers have vowed to quit growing poppies, which in turn are used to produce opium and heroin, if the government rebuilds the infrastructure needed for them to grow legitimate crops profitably. So far, the government has been unable to meet this demand.
This is a country that just asked for over $27 billion in foreign aid. Traditional, U.S.-style policies with respect to illegal drugs, foolish in this country, simply do not apply to Afghanistan. It's not like the West is going to quit using heroin if these farmers' crops are destroyed. Legalize the production and export of poppies, tax the crops, and once the country is on its feet, it can begin to subsidize production of other crops and slowly phase out poppy production.