Why don't we buy opium from Afghanistan for legitimate uses?

I recently read an article, in National Geographic or Smithsonian. about our troops who are going through Afghanistan destroying poppy fields. The opium is being sold on the black market and helping to fund the Taliban, apparently.

US drug and food companies use poppies for legitimate reasons. Vicodin, Lortab, poppy seed bagels, etc… Somebody’s got to grow those poppies, why not let the Afghans grow them, and sell to legitimate companies? We’re not going to be there forever, and people there are going to need to be able to earn money. As far as the money going to the Taliban, the same could happen with any source of income; if the people go back to growing grapes or melons or whatever, the Taliban could get its hands on that money too.

I just have these pictures in my head of some powerful poppy farmers and their lobbyists, sitting around laughing about how they’ve convinced the US to send its military to the other side of the world to destroy their competition’s crops.

How do you make sure they are only selling to legal buyers?

It would take some resources, but so does going around chopping down all the poppies. And in the former case, you’re not destroying a person’s ability to feed their family, right in front of them, while wearing a US uniform, and trying to win “hearts and minds.”

In the article, it described families standing around sobbing as their livelihood was destroyed, and saying that they wouldn’t be able to feed their children.

There was a plan to do just that earlier in the war. License opium growers to sell to the gov’t, who would then pass the product to pharmacutical companies, and concentrate anti-opium enforcement on the unlicensed growers.

I never heard of the plan being implimented though, despite the fact that it seemed like a pretty good solution.

IIRC, US policies require that US drug companies obtain their opium from very closely monitored and regulated and supervised and licensed opium production farms. I don’t know that Afghani operations could meet that standard.

IIRC that’s how the French Connection managed to have a dope so pure. Turkey was growing opium for medical use, but a fair percentage of the stuff was diverted and ended up in the French connection’s arms (really talking OOMA here but it would be hard in a third world country like Afghanistan not to do the same, and on a far bigger scale).

I thought it had something to do with a treaty with Turkey and one other country to be the sole suppliers. Don’t do where I got the notion.

Christopher Hitchens had promoted this idea earlier. It makes so much sense - they know how to grow it, we need it and we’re buying it from a stable but repressive government.

Where does the raw opium used to process opiate medications come from?

Hell, for that matter skip the using of the purchased poppies.

Step one: Purchase Poppy flowers. The entire thing, not just that sweet sweet ooze. Make sure that the grower understands that it’s for the entire plant. Stress that the bulb needs to be nice and clean, not scratched, cut, or otherwise damaged.

Step two: Follow through on this. Pay a decent wage, more than they could get from selling poppy extract, but not a ton more. Collect huge piles of poppy plants.

Step three: Drive Poppy Plants to a processing plant, which is to say a giant mill to just crush the dang things into mulch.

Step four: Sell incredibly cheap mulch to same farmers.

Do this for a handful of growing seasons, then slowly reduce demand. Encourage farmers to move into other cash crops the entire time.

Sadly, this will never work as that NatGeo article pointed out, there is ample evidence that the ANP are working hand in hand with the drug traffickers to make sure that supply of Poppy extract doesn’t go away. Corruption is the big issue, more so than the actual trade. Kill the corruption, and you can start working on the trade.

The Australian state of Tasmania is the worlds largest supplier, in order to be accepted as a supplier we enact the same drug scheduling as the USA for the most part.

Here’s a remarkable fact for you: Britain, with a climate very poorly suited to Opium cultivation, has a government programme to promote the growing of Opium poppies in Wiltshire (I think it was Wiltshire), which is then exported to Afghanistan, which produces some massive percentage of the world’s opium, to treat wounded soldiers.

Because if it was licensed growers only and at prices attractive enough to keep off the black market, the rest would still have the criminal/terrorist incentive. And if it was ‘we’ll buy all the opium you can grow’ not a single stalk of wheat would be growing anywhere.

National Geographic has an article on it this month. The journalist accompanying the Afghan eradication team said basically it was the farmers who did not or could not pay bribes that had their crop destroyed.

Even if we are buying the opium, it doesn’t prevent the money from going to the taliban. The could be growing soybeans, but the taliban is still going to take its cut. In many places in Afghanistan, the taliban is the defacto government, in others it forms a shadow government; regardless, it is going to collect its tax on anything sold in its area of control.