Legalize and commercialize the Afghan poppy crop, says May

OTTAWA – It's time to abandon the failed campaign to eradicate Afghanistan's poppy crops and adopt a new plan that helps the Afghan people earn a decent living while marginalizing the drug lords and warlords, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said today. She called on NATO and the international community to endorse the Poppy for Medicine (P4M) project – licensing opium poppy cultivation for the production of Afghan-made morphine to be exported to developing countries through special trade agreements. "How much more evidence is needed before we finally admit that eradication has failed?" asked Ms. May. "Opium production is exploding. The area under poppy cultivation is increasing year by year and Afghanistan now produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium. The drug economy represents half the country's GDP." Ms. May said that the Afghan Government and the international forces trying to establish security and basic services in southern Afghanistan now face a crucial choice: legalize and commercialize the poppy crop (simultaneously providing badly needed foreign aid in the form of subsidized medicinal products to developing countries) or ramp up the expensive forced eradication program, poisoning the environment with pesticides and losing the "hearts and minds" of the poor farmers who grow poppies to survive. The Senlis Council – an international policy think-tank with offices in Kabul, London, Paris and Brussels – is proposing P4M as an opportunity to build trust between the outlying regions and the central government in Kabul. Once these relationships are solid, socio-economic development and alternative crop programs can be expanded as part of a village level poppy quota system. Protection payments to the Taliban will decrease, depriving the insurgency of an important source of funds. Last year, the Green Party became the first political party to endorse the Senlis Council approach to Afghan poppy cultivation. Today, the party is releasing its own research on the proposal and responding to the most frequent criticisms. Go to www.greenparty.ca/en/policy/documents/P4M "We have to look beyond the war-on-drugs rhetoric of the Bush administration and admit that continuing to spray Afghanistan's poppy fields is not only not helping, it is actually undermining the progress already made in reconstruction and security," said Ms. May. "P4M is a creative solution to an intractable problem. It is Afghanistan's best chance."