World Not Drug-Free Yet. Check Again in Another 10 Years.

The U.N. expects another bumper crop of opium in Afghanistan this year, close to last year's all-time record of about 9,000 tons:

Cultivation is still increasing in the insurgency-hit south and west of the country, the report said, and taxes on the crop have become a major source of revenue for the Taliban insurgency.

"This is a windfall for antigovernment forces, further evidence of the dangerous link between opium and insurgency," Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, wrote in the report's preface.

Since Costa, an economist, knows better, I assume someone else in his office accidentally excised the word prohibition after opium in that sentence. This is the year, incidentally, by which the U.N. planned to achieve "a drastic simultaneous reduction of both illicit supply and demand for drugs." When that goal was set, Costa's predecessor, Pino Arlacchi, confidently declared "there is no reason [worldwide opium and coca production] cannot be eliminated."

The U.N. report is here. My columns on the last two record-setting Afghan opium crops are here and here.

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  • ||

    They've proven that, with aggressive prohibition, government can affect supply... but demand is up to the end consumer. If the demand is still there, and the supply is nearly cut off... it goes without saying that some rather unsavory people will be trying to take advantage of the highly profitable situation, despite it being illegal.

    Does the UN (or any other political body, for that matter) know Thing One about economics?

  • Episiarch||

    Gentlemen, you have to protect your phoney-baloney jobs.

  • ||

    I don't understand the difference between the dope smugglers and Al-Qaeda. The drug-lords are capable of exporting a bazillion pounds of stuff every year; yet the terrorists are stopped by TSA searching grannies in American airports. At the same time, our southern border seems to be quite porous.
    Here are my hypotheses:
    1. The drug lords are very smart
    2. Al-Qaeda is run very poorly
    3. Our enforcement people are in cahoots with the drug smugglers but won't take terrorists' money
    Any other ideas out there?

  • ||

    I think if we were to once and for all get really tougth we could eliminate the illegal drug problem from out society.

  • ||

    Inspired by Episiarch, 12:27pm,
    I give you the new Drug Enforcement Administration motto, improved for more truthiness.

    Liberalis, nos have protego nostrum planto-puto officia!*

    *I took the original Blazing Saddles quote (gentleman, we have too protect our phoney-baloney jobs) and ran it thru a software translation, found a synonym (I hope) for phoney baloney and came up with it. Genuine latin speakers can correct me if this is somehow/totally screwed up.

  • ||

    "Any other ideas out there?"

    4. The CIA launders drug money through its black ops.

    5. Big pharma doesn't want people to be able to consume cannabis for any reason, so shut up and take your Soma.

  • Egosumabbas||

    Why not have government-sanctioned poppy fields instead and raise taxes on it, like the Taliban do? Fight fire with fire, I say.

    Oh wait, the Drug War takes precedent over the War On Terror? My bad.

  • JLE||

    But poppies are so pretty!

  • Egosumabbas||

    Also, poppies are some hard plants to kill--I had this overgrown yard where the only thing left growing was poppies and vines. Trying to wipe out fields of them is an exercise in futility, and will likely result in making the areas useless for grazing or farming.

  • ||

    "Any other ideas out there?"

    6. Banks and financial institutions which are handling billions of $ of drug monies which were "laundered".

    7. Corrupt federal, state and local government officials and police departments. It only takes a few people looking the other way.

    8. Catching those in the drug trade is easier and more lucrative than chasing wierd beards in the deserts and mountains.

  • John \"Taliban\" Macrae||

    In Helmand's fields the poppies blow,
    Between the crescents row on row.
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    We served Allah, and now we lie
    In Helmand's fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    Islam; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Helmand's fields.

  • Kolohe||

    3. Our enforcement people are in cahoots with the drug smugglers but won't take terrorists' money

    FWIW, this was a minor plot point in season 2 of the Wire - that this was in fact the case.

  • ||

    9. Actually capturing terrorists and wiping them out, would be bad for our friends in the arms industry.

  • dhex||

    3. Our enforcement people are in cahoots with the drug smugglers but won't take terrorists' money

    i would tag this with a ding ding ding.

    as at least part of the issue.

  • LarryA||

    On the left we have the recruiter for Joe Drugdealer. He's offering $5,000/week, a stainless steel Beretta 9mm, a party full of hot women, and a Ferrari.

    On the right we have Max Terror, recruiting for Al-Quaeda. You have to sign a no-having-fun pledge and wear a hot, bulky vest until it turns you into sushi.

    Decisions, decisions.

  • Taktix®||

    10. Drugs lord exist because there is a massive, highly-profitable market. Terrorists exist because their threat is massively inflated to scare us into giving up our liberties.

  • Taktix®||

    Oops, I think I traded "making sense" for brevity in that last one...

  • ||

    If we were to legalize opium production in the United States, American farmers would drive those Afghani poppy planters out of business.

  • ||

    10. Drugs lord exist because there is a massive, highly-profitable market. Terrorists exist because their threat is massively inflated to scare us into giving up our liberties.

    Taktix® makes pretty much the the point I was going to add, and the one that really answers the question. There are far far more people willing to make an artificially high profit by working in the drug supply chain than there are people willing to slaughter others and/or themselves for not much more than a promise of reward in the hereafter.

  • ||

    If we were to legalize opium production in the United States, American farmers would drive those Afghani poppy planters out of business.

    Not if we couldn't use Mexican laborers. There's a lot of hand-work and stoop labor in the opium poppy business.

  • ||

    Not if we couldn't use Mexican laborers. There's a lot of hand-work and stoop labor in the opium poppy business.

    You mean like lettuce? Or brocolli? Of course we'd use Mexican farm labor.

  • Heinrick||

    "I think if we were to once and for all get really tougth we could eliminate the illegal drug problem from out society".

    If by getting tough you mean nuking all of our cities to kill all of our people, I agree.

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