Moral campaigners are often taken aback by logical market actions in every corner of human existence. For instance, it seems we're not the only producers changing our crop mix to respond to market forces.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The fields of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan were free of opium poppies this year, a success touted often by Afghan and international officials. But one look at Mohammad Alam's fields uncovers an emerging drug problem.Making the fruitless War on Drugs even more pointless is a possible shortage of legal opium. Although disputed by some, the developed world's rapidly aging and ailing population could represent an enormous demand for morphine.
Ten-foot-tall cannabis plants flourish in Alam's fields. The crop — the source of both marijuana and hashish — can be just as profitable as opium but draws none of the scrutiny from Afghan officials bent on eradicating poppies.
Cannabis cultivation rose 40 percent in Afghanistan this year, to 173,000 acres from 123,550 in 2006, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimated in its 2007 opium survey. The crop is being grown in at least 18 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, according to the survey released last month.
"The government cannot provide a good market for other crops like cotton, watermelon and vegetables, so I have to grow marijuana instead of poppy," said Alam, a farmer in Balkh province, which the U.N. singles out as a "leading example" of an opium-free area. [More]
I have always wondered why we don't grow our own poppies in the US where the majority of morphine is consumed. I suppose those countries like Turkey and Afghanistan have much better policing and controls to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.