Thursday, June 30, 2011

Legalize Medicine

Opium poppy licensing in Turkey:

A model to solve Afghanistan’s illegal opium economy

PoppyForMedicine website, Download the report

The report analyses the Turkish opium licensing system as a way to illustrate the “normality” of such an industry. The latter function is important for the current debate on using similar systems in other countries. In Afghanistan, for example, the opium poppy is still solely associated with illegal drug consumption, drug trafficking, crime and insurgency. On the contrary, in Turkey, opium poppies are regarded as both traditional medicine and an essential p art of a rich cooking tradition. As such, the poppy licensing industry in Turkey should be regarded less a direct example of how to implement a similar model in Afghanistan, but more as an illustration of an alternative, non-politicised way of looking at the opium poppy plant and its potential benefits for Afghanistan.
Background In 2005, ICOS started its research into an Afghan Poppy for Medicine model. The initial findings were released in the form of a Feasibility Study at a conference in Kabul. Building on these initial findings and ongoing extensive field research, ICOS has released its Poppy for Medicine Technical Dossier, including all technical specifications and the entire economic model of the system.

Afghanistan faces an unprecedented security and reconstruction crisis. Resolving Afghanistan’s opium crisis is the key to the international community’s successful stabilisation and development of the country. Yet, by over-emphasising failed counter-narcotics strategies such as forced poppy eradication, the United States-led international community has aggravated the security situation, precluding the very reconstruction and development necessary to remove Afghan farmers’ need to cultivate poppy. In 2006 Afghanistan produced 92% of the world’s total illegal opium, directly involving at least 13% of the country’s population.

A village-based economic solution to Afghanistan’s poppy crisis is available, which links Afghanistan’s two most valuable resources - poppy cultivation and strong local village control systems – through the controlled cultivation of poppy for the village-based production of morphine. Based on extensive on-the-ground research, ICOS has developed a Poppy for Medicine project model for Afghanistan as a means of bringing illegal poppy cultivation under control in an immediate yet sustainable manner. The key feature of the model is that village-cultivated poppy would be transformed into morphine tablets in the Afghan villages. The entire production process, from seed to medicine tablet, can thus be controlled by the village in collaboration with government and international actors, and all economic profits from medicine sales will remain in the village, allowing for economic diversification. As internationally tradable commodities, village-made medicines would also benefit the Afghan government. Pilot projects are needed to enhance the controllability and economic effectiveness of this counter-narcotics initiative.

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