My old Mum's habit, world peace, an end to crime, etc.
My old Mum is hanging out at present, and it’s not fun times for anybody. The doctor has said that her new knee is working fine, and so he’s taken her off the morphine patches. If she could bend her knees, she’d be huddled in the corner, sweating, rocking to and fro, and grasping them.
My old Mum is just one of millions of people who are suffering from opiate withdrawal world wide. The limited legal supplies of opiates come to Western Europe and the States, and not to the places where people are in the most pain. It is 4000 % more expensive to buy morphine for pain relief in Lima than it is to buy illegal opium from the farm gate in Afghanistan. The glut of illegal opium poppy production in Afghanistan since the start of the war is probably being stockpiled, since supply currently outstrips heroin demand by about 2:1. Researching for the ‘Longest Crawl’, I learned that during periods of prohibition, consumption goes up, and that during times of tolerance, drug use levels off. I also learned that drugs screw up the heads of those who attempt to legislate against them just as much as they do those of users.
Meanwhile, British soldiers are fighting the Third Opium War. Our masters are spending our troops on two fronts; ‘Terror’ and ‘Drugs’. In Afghanistan, these fronts cross. We try, and fail, to destroy the poppy trade, and wonder that the main poppy growing area is up in arms. If someone declared lamb illegal, and soldiers came to Radnorshire to eradicate sheep and get us to grow watermalons instead, we’d fight. Not me personally, obviously. I’d make the tea, though.
It has seemed to me for years that the obvious thing to do would be to buy the poppies from the farmers. Just buy them, and bring our girls and boys home; and keep them west of Suez for good and all. This policy has also seemed obvious to those hippies I’ve talked to about the idea in The Dukes. Last weekend, one of the hippies I was talking to about the idea told me that his nephew has just come back from Afghanistan, and that all the lads he knows in the Army think that it is only buying the poppies from the farmers that makes any sense.
This old hippy, after talking to that old hippy, came home and had a look at the Wonderful World of Web, and discovered the joy-making Poppy For Medicine campaign. The idea is simple; you give the farmers the equipment to make morphine from their poppy crops, and then buy the morphine at almost twice the black market price. Unlike the shit I talk with my mates in the pub, this is a beautifully thought out project; a policy of peace, just waiting to be grabbed by a party with a little political courage.
Apparently, the Taliban make ‘hundreds of millions of dollars a year’ from the black market trade in opium. We spend that in an afternoon. Just fucking buy it. We could do it today.
All farmers should have the right to grow on their own land what they judge to be the most economically viable crop, and to recieve the best price for it. In Afghanistan, that crop happens to be Papaver somniferum.
So I’ve done something enormously C21, and started a Facebook group, called Poppies For Peace. We also serve who only sit and surf. This is the blurb I’ve put up on the site…
‘Poppies for Peace thinks that we should remember what it means when we wear our poppies to commemorate the death of British servicemen and women. We are still fighting opium wars, and still killing our soldiers and airmen in the futile ‘War Against Drugs.’
This year, when you wear your poppy, please take a moment to write to your local newspaper and your MP, asking for their support for the Poppies For Medicine programme.’
One possible drawback of this madcap scheme to pay Afghan farmers a fair price for their crops instead of bombing their weddings is that the black market price could be driven higher over time. So the next bit of a sane heroin policy would be to manage demand by making smack available on prescription. But that, my loves, is another story.
If globalisation could be extended to international cost accounting, it could well be found that, rather than suppressing the growing of poppies in Afghanistan it would be cost effective for western states to subsidise the poppy industry. The economic functioning of an illegal market is by its nature distorted – and impossible to monitor accurately. All sorts of claims are made about the illicit drug industry that are obviously predicated more on guesswork than solid fact. What is obviously true is that, aside from the ‘human’ cost of heroin, there is an enormous societal cost in terms of crimes committed to sustain habits.
Another impossible statistic to compute is the plasticity of demand for heroin. Does usage increase if price drops? In that the price of poppies has dropped over the last four years it would appear that the market does not absorb new product endlessly. It is finite. If heroin were free like water once was it wouldn’t mean that everyone would use it.
If price is not the main determinate of usage it is possible to guess that a drastic reduction in price would be unlikely to lead to a significant increase in its usage. A junkie finds his fix, come hell or high water. If he could find it without indulging in a one man – or woman – crime wave, that would bring considerable benefit to society, especially the vulnerable parts of it that tend to be most victimised by junkie crime.
Of course there would be an initial increase in its general usage. However, heroin in itself is one of the less physically destructive drugs – except that it is so addictive. An addict with a non-problematic supply of clean heroin can live to a ripe old age. Were addicts not almost inevitably criminalised it would be easier for them to climb out of the life style. The life-style itself would also change to become less absorbing and disconnecting from normal society. This would make it easier to give up.
If it is not possible to use the heroin from Afghan poppies to produce the painkillers that seem to be in short supply at the moment (a solution that has seemed simplistically obvious to many of us for a long time) then let us buy the poppies at source and supply the heroin to the existing supply networks at vastly reduced price. This would have the effect of destroying the profitability of a lot of the western-based Sicilian controlled heroin supply industry whilst also withdrawing the main source of funding for the Taliban, reducing crime and the costs of crime control (half a million drug users in prison in USA – admittedly the most imprisoned population on the planet – and 65,000 in this country).
The entire drug income of Afghanistan is estimated at $3.5 billion (inevitably another fantasy statistic, of course) which is the cost of allowing a medium sized bank to carry on not lending money. It would be money much better spent.
All of the above is inevitably a plea for the legalisation of drugs. Although this is an enormously complex project, the alternative of the continuation of the criminalisation of large swathes of the youth of our nation and the engendering of ever-expanding crime waves for NO effect is absurd. The debate about drugs is conducted as though those engaged in it are on drugs. The re-classification of cannabis from C to B in this country is a prime example of surreal debate, conducted with the implication that the classification of cannabis has made a difference to the use, price or supply of the drug. My generation of aging hippies, having stopped using cannabis because its rebellion quotient dropped with its classification, are likely to resume its use when it is upgraded again. Apart from another increase in prison population, I can see no other consequence for its upgrading. Possibly suppliers might be able to increase prices, although that has been happening already as a result of fairly successful police activity in finding locally grown skunk. That will re-activate the ultimately much more destructive international trade.
I can’t see how that would work. As the saying goes, “where there’s gear there’s brass” so the whole operation would be corrupted. Our Army would have to “police” the whole thing and would still be there forever (did a high-ranker say something like 30-40 years for the present ‘task’). Can anyone see a day when an integrated Afghan army will be able to bring “peace”.
The old Poppy will grow almost anywhere so surely there must be remote places to the south of the S.American continent that could be utilised for the purpose. As for the labour intensive gathering of the ‘milk’ I suggest diverting the army of year- gappers who head that way. Obviously the usual “eat what you can” arrangements would have to be adressed, perhaps a line of strawberries inter planted between the rows might tackle that.
Seriously though, where there’s a will there’s a way.
On the African continent it is said that 2sqM for every woman will provide enough food in that climate to feed her family. So bung in a few poppies too and get a co-operative going.
Better still, if we are the least most corrupted country in Europe why not grow it here. Think of all those lovely white flowers, I mean what did the Romans ever do for us? – oil seed rape.
This idea makes excellent sense, although the reality of day to day government in Afghanistan would possibly end up providing ready made morphine or heroin for the Taleban, or the tribal war lords in the regions where they are grown.
We wear poppies in Oz for the same reason: we also grow poppies commercially so advice on setting up processing facilities could constitute an aid project.
There is understandable nervousness about the potential for pear shaped projects to end up producing more opiate addictions. I work in the field of corrections in Canberra and the thought of more young people enmeshed on that more or less hoplessly terrible path of top end addiction doesn’t exactly thrill me.
Once upon a time, prisons were full of the mad and bad: now so many prisoners just shouldn’t be there: they don’t want to be there; it’s just the background presence of Mr H. dictating their next few minutes!
What a good idea you have.
I really don’t know if ready for that kind of commitment. Can’t I just be the milk monitor or arrange the chairs or something?
YOu have to join Facebook first….
Ian, it’s a concept that’s beautifully thought out, logical and reeks of common sense. That’s one reason why I can’t see the people who currently run this country having anything to do with it. I really don’t think that any politician who has never served in the forces or has a child in the forces should ever have the right to take us to war, especially when it’s somebody else’s war. But then some people voted for the Blair/Brown/Campbell nexus to run the country and what experience did any of them ever have of the real world?
But I’ll support it*. Me and you, we should be in charge of the country. You make the tea and I’ll open the mail.
*Being a bit of a virgin though, how do I get to see the face book thing? Honestly, I don’t know!
Love to yer Mum, god bless her, and hello to Ralph too.
Right, I’m off to watch Tessie.
I agree with your aims and think it a great scheme, however I don’t trust the governments to deliver such sanity.
I will support it anyway xx
I’m sure you’re right that the drugs industry has a somewhat murky side…
The beauty of Poppy For Medicine is that it is so well thought out and researched, and therefore ripe for adoption by a political party looking for a coherent non-military Afgan policy.
If nothing else, if people lobbied for the adoption of Poppy For Medicine, and never get heard, it will strengthen the view that there is more that goes on in the opium trade than meets the eye, as you so acutely point out.
1. Check out who made money from the Opium Wars.
2. The big brewers in this country were some of the first capitalist enterprises and have been supported by the state ever since.
3. Research who are the major shareholders in tobacco companies.
4. The Bush family were major shareholders in Eli Lilley – makers of LSD in USA used by CIA in covert experiments on their own people.
5. Read up on how Crack Cocaine was developed to fund the illegal Contras.
6. Don’t expect so-called governments to solve a problem they created for thie own nefarious reasons.
Well, what? The point of this post is that a proper think tank has turned this down the pub and in the NAAFI canteen idea into a proper thought-out policy. I’d like to hear your objection to the proper policy, rather than the down-the-pub stuff. And why is there a photo of Mr Wizz on your profile?
“…all the lads he knows in the Army think that it is only buying the poppies from the farmers that makes any sense…”
well that’s clinched it for me then…