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.