Philip Seymour Hoffman

Record Opium Poppy Acreage Means Victory Is Just Around the Corner (As Usual)



According to a report released yesterday by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the amount of land devoted to opium poppies in Afghanistan reached an all-time high this year: 209,000 hectares, up 36 percent from last year and 8 percent higher than the previous record, set in 2007. The good news, according to the UNODC: "Unfavourable weather conditions, particularly in the Western and Southern regions of the country, meant that the 2013 opium yield was adversely affected," so that estimated opium production, while 49 percent higher than last year, was still lower than the 2007 record. Once again, drug warriors' most effective tactic in Afghanistan, which produces about 90 percent of the raw material for the world's heroin, seems to be praying for bad weather.

Although it could have been higher with better weather, the 2013 production level, 5,500 tons, was more than enough to satisfy the annual global demand for illicit opium, which is estimated to be something like 5,000 tons. Production has exceeded that level in five of the last 10 years. So even if the weather gets really bad, drug traffickers willl have a stockpile on which to draw. After opium production fell to a measly 185 tons in 2001 under the Taliban (who simultaneously cracked down on and profited from the trade), heroin did not disappear from the streets.

Even less meaningful is the official number of "poppy-free" provinces, which fell from 17 to 15 (out of 34) this year. But let us note for the record that most of Afghanistan's provinces are once again producing opium. The farm-gate price for opium fell by 12 percent, the sort of change you might expect as production expands, although it is still "much higher than the prices fetched during the high yield years of 2006-2008." Hence the returns "continued to lure farmers."

That reality reflects a basic problem with the never-ending, always-failing strategy of preventing drug use by attacking supply. Although the UNODC seems to have forgotten, the whole point of eradicating poppies and seizing opium is to drive up prices and thereby discourage heroin consumption. But to the extent that drug warriors succeed in raising prices, they make the business of growing poppies and producing opium more appealing, thereby defeating themselves. As you may vaguely recall from an economics course in college, higher prices stimulate an increased supply, which drives prices down again. Even in the heroin market. In the last decade, as opium seizures skyrocketed, heroin purity rose and heroin prices fell.

But there's always next year! Back in 1997, Pino Arlacchi, the first director of the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, which later became the UNODC, explained that "global coca leaf and opium poppy acreage totals an area less than half the size of Puerto Rico," so "there is no reason it cannot be eliminated." Four years ago, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa declared: "It is no longer sufficient to say: no to drugs. We have to state an equally vehement: no to crime." Yesterday Costa's successor, Yury Fedotov, called the 2013 cultivation figures "sobering," but he also had a solution: "What is needed is an integrated, comprehensive response to the drug problem. Counter-narcotics efforts must be an integral part of the security, development and institution-building agenda."

Drug warriors are becoming so sophisticated that pretty soon we will have no idea what their goals are, and neither will they. Then they can declare victory without fear of contradiction.

NEXT: Mich. Senate Passes Bill Allowing Pharmacy Sales of Medical Marijuana

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  1. Attractive to the eye, and soothing to the smell…

  2. Get US Out of the United Nations!

    The Birchers are right.

    1. So are you.

  3. I wonder what it’s like to be the ONDCP director. Are you so fucking deluded that you think anything as lumbering and monolithic as the government can stop the infinite demand and massively profitable supply of the drug trade? Or are you a cynical rent-seeker who shits out whatever rhetoric you think the public will swallow in order to justify your ever-increasing budget and mandate?

    1. I bet the first director was the former, the rest the latter.

  4. “What is needed is an integrated, comprehensive response to the drug problem.”
    Yep, they need to
    Hear the wake-up call,
    Focus on the mission, and
    Think outside the box!

  5. So, proof positive, the way to win the drug war is to put the Terrorists in charge. It’s almost as if that explains the way things have been going for a while now.

  6. The classical opera on the radio is about a Roman general who comes home from the wars to discover that his fiancee has become a Vestal Virgin. Im not going to listen to the whole thing, but im going to assume hilarity ensues and after a few comical misunderstandings they end up getting married. Thats the usual formula, isnt it?

  7. Drug warriors are becoming so sophisticated that pretty soon we will have no idea what their goals are, and neither will they. Then they can declare victory without fear of contradiction.

    Something was done, funds were allocated, rights stripped, smugglers incarcerated, producers impoverished; sounds like success to me.

  8. That makes a lot of sense dude.

  9. Chicago Bond yields skyrocket as pension costs mount.

    Just one more Democrat city slowly rotting from the inside.

    That kind of planning is what’s led Chicago to where it is today. Ratings agencies and analysts point to decades of barely balanced budgets relying on one-time revenues, an antiquated tax system and a failure to cut spending or demand union concessions. The only way to address the city’s accrued pension debt, Martire said, is a decades-long, mandatory amortization plan.

    The highlighted part has no relation to the situation in California or Detroit.


  10. I still can’t get over the fact that people accept the notion that the government has any business telling us what we can do with our bodies and minds.

    1. Dude, we are all in this together. Everything you do affects everyone else. You are part of the collective. Besides, your body is a temple, it does not belong to you. It belongs to someone else’s imaginary friend.

      Or something.

      1. I’m pretty sure the people collecting Social Security aren’t imaginary. Well, most of them.

  11. I was in Bolivia back in the mid-eighties. The U.S. army showed up to eradicate the Coca fields. Bolivian sentiment for America went from very favorable to absolute shit over night. We had to leave. I turned on the TV when I got back to the states and saw where the army was combing the countryside but was unable to find the coca fields, and there were crowds rioting and burning old glory in front of the US embassy.

    A week before they showed up I had driven the infamous ‘highway of death’ from LaPaz, over the andes, and down into the Beni. On the west side of the Andes I spent an hour driving through Coca fields as far as the eye could see.

    Whatever the drug warriors tell you, you can be sure it is bullshit lies.

    1. *sidenote – I had always wanted to explore the amazon jungle. On that drive I had a chance to stop and wander around. It was as middle of nowhere as you can get on this earth. I wandered about half a mile from the truck. The first thing I noticed is that the jungle I had always dreamed of visiting looked just like Louisiana. Second thing I noticed was a naked guy, tattoed from head to toe, carrying an AK47 and staring at me from the bushes. That was a real ‘oh shit!’ moment. The distinct feeling I got was that, in spite of being shaped like a human as I know them, he was pure animal. We stared at each other for half a minute then both walked away.

      One of the guys there, a real badass, was in the jungle when it started raining. Thank god I was in the truck sleeping. The rain brought down zillions of tiny flatworms of some sort out of the trees. They got in his eyes and crawled up his nose into his sinus cavity. As far as I know he is still fucked up to this day.

      I have no desire to visit the amazon any longer.

      1. Shit. I’m going to have nightmares after that story.

        1. Bolivia is a stunningly beautiful place. The people are very friendly, but the savagery and nightmarishness is just under the surface.

          I understand it has all turned to shit with that nut Evo running the place.

          1. Correction. It was shit then. Double shit now.

          2. My girlfriend was there about 15 years ago and thought it was beautiful. She took the highway of death too. She never has a scrap of fear in flying, etc. but said she had some shakes on that trip.

            1. Ooooh yeah. If you go there, bring lots of extra underwear.

  12. I don’t know if the pharmacology of this follows, but the late Christopher Hitchens used to rant about this arguing the best way to deal with it was to allow extensive growing of opium and then sell it to pharmaceutical companies b/c there was a global shortage of various painkillers which an opium harvest could help.

    1. Part of what I wanted people to take away from the story I told above is that the poppy fields are there, easy to find, and easy to spray with herbicide. If they were serious about eradicating the crop they could easily do so.

      Jesus, you can find them yourself with a click of your mouse on google earth. The only reason the fields are there is because the drug warriors are ok with them being there.

      1. Not disagreeing with your assessment but just want to understand. Are you arguing that the drug warriors are OK with them being there because it helps them continue a “war on drugs”?

        1. Absolutely. If they eradicate the poppy crop there would be no justification for their jobs and jack-boot tactics. They would have to find a job doing something productive instead of running around pretending to be superwarriors, kicking the shit out of people and stealing everything they can get their hands on.

          1. Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

          2. One of the guys I went to HS with became a cop and got to be an undercover drug cop. He called me up once and asked if I knew anyone who had an airplane. I asked why. He said they needed one. I pointed out that just because someone had a plane didnt necessarily mean they could seize it, the guy might not have anything to do with drugs.

            His answer; That doesnt matter. We can take what we want.

            Scum. of. the. earth.

  13. If there is “good” news on the war on drugs, then the drug wariers say look it’s working. When it doesn’t work, they say “we are doing it wrong, we need to spend more money”
    See also this Bloomberg article.

  14. If we grew drugs at home and dispensed them at licensed facilities, it could put these operations out of business and bring lots of peace and quiet around the globe.

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