Although the US White House and State Department are pushing to ramp up "the war on poppies" by spraying the country with herbicides, an increasing number of voices now seem to think that this would be a bad idea - Afghan President Hamid Karzai and even the CIA and Pentagon worry such a move would further destabilize the country. Some, such as the SENLIS council and U of Toronto chemist John Polanyi have even advocated creative solutions, such as legalizing Afghan opiate production to supply the legal market for medicinal painkillers like morphine and codeine. But is demand for medicinal opiates high enough for the global market to absorb a massive influx of Afghani crops while maintaining sustainable pricing? Apparently a staggering 93% of the world's opiates are currently produced in Afghanistan. Presumably, right now all of this is going onto the "black" market. So, by my rough non-economist calculations this would mean about a 10-fold increase in medicinal opiate supply if the Afghan industry were suddenly legalized. Who's going to buy the stuff? Are doctors going to be suddenly prescribing 10-fold more opiate pain-killers?
Anyway I'm no economist, but hopefully some smart person with a calculator is trying to figure out something useful that could be done with Afghanistan's poppies. It seems a strange irony that the same red flowers Canadians wear to remember our fallen veterans are now at the center of a war our troops are currently fighting.