Afghan drugs trade rises dramatically since overthrow of Taliban

The record level of opium cultivation creates multiple challenges for Afghanistan, according to the UN. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Afghan drugs trade rises dramatically since overthrow of Taliban

KABUL: By giving levy to the Taliban and bribing the very government forces tasked to destroy the bloom of his poppy fields, Sanaullah for years has been planting poppy, which is refined into opium and then into heroin.
He is one of the thousands of farmers who have turned to this industry, which has earned Afghanistan global notoriety, and which strangely has been on the rise since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government despite the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars and a campaign of eradication.
“We are doing this because of extreme destitution. The Taliban come and take their share as tax and we also pay tip money to police and others in the government,” the farmer who operates in the southern region told Arab News.
“There is a big market for this in the region and the world, with local and foreign mafia making a big fortune out of this and even bankrolling the war here,” the 56-year-old said, requesting not to reveal the province where he lives for security reasons.
He has witnessed days in the initial years after the fall of the Taliban when foreign and government forces conducted raids to destroy poppy fields, even causing casualties on both sides. But farmers resumed cultivation.
Some commanders within the government and warlords have been profiting from the trade for years as well as the Taliban, according to locals.
There have been allegations among Afghans, even some government officials, that foreign troops are also involved in the trafficking, that how they are funding the war in Afghanistan and that demand is increasing in the international market.
In Kabul, an official who works at the special tribunal for sentencing drug dealers claimed that neither the government nor the foreign troops are “serious” at this stage about the annihilation of drugs or arresting key figures involved in the trafficking of narcotics.
“Hundreds of people have been arrested over the years on suspicion of drug-smuggling, but have you ever heard of or seen any major dealer being arrested?. They are only after small fish to show to the world that they are fighting the drugs menace,” he told Arab News.
Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst, told Arab News he has heard from farmers in the south that a new type of opium seed has come to Afghanistan that can produce multiple harvests in a year.
This week a survey for last year’s opium harvest of Afghanistan conducted by various Afghan institutions and UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) was released.
It showed an increase of 63 percent in 2017, to an estimated 328,000 hectares.
“The majority (60 percent) of opium poppy cultivation took place in the southern region of the country. The western region accounted for 17 percent of total cultivation; the northern for 13 percent and the eastern for 7 percent,” the survey said.
The remaining regions (northeastern and central) together accounted for 3 percent. The report also highlighted an increase of 87 percent in opium production, i.e. 9,000 tons from its 2016 level (4,800 tons).
Deputy Minister for Counter-Narcotics Jawed Qaem, described the illicit drugs trade as a devastating catastrophe for Afghanistan and the world, and closely interlinked with international terrorism.
He said: “Global demand for drugs is the core driver of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan; additional factors include the huge involvement of international precursor traffickers and their strong ties with the mafia in transporting the precursors into Afghanistan to convert opium to heroin.”
He added that the Taliban profited from the trade, and it was a major source for funding the insurgency.
The value of the trade of drugs has jumped to $6.6 billion last year compared to less than $3 billion in past years, he said.
Both the government and UNODC said they will keep on their campaign against drugs.


Canada to announce marijuana legalization date soon

The federal government said provincial and territorial governments will need eight to 12 weeks following Senate passage and royal assent to prepare for retail sales. (AFP)
Updated 14 min 5 sec ago
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Canada to announce marijuana legalization date soon

  • Canada is following the lead of Uruguay in allowing a nationwide, legal marijuana market
  • Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in the US

TORONTO: The Canadian government said Wednesday it will soon announce the date when cannabis will become legal — but warned it will remain illegal until then.
The Senate gave final passage to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bill to legalize cannabis on Tuesday. But Canadians will have to wait at least a couple of months to legally buy marijuana. The country will become the second in the world to make pot legal nationwide.
“The legislation is transformative,” said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, adding it “marks a wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis, leaving behind a failed model of prohibition.”
The federal government said provincial and territorial governments will need eight to 12 weeks following Senate passage and royal assent to prepare for retail sales. Legal sales are expected to start sometime in early or mid-September.
Wilson-Raybould suggested Trudeau could announce the legalization date as soon as later Wednesday, when the prime minister has an end-of-Parliament session press conference.
“The law still remains the law,” Wilson-Raybould said. “I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force.”
Canada is following the lead of Uruguay in allowing a nationwide, legal marijuana market, although each Canadian province is working up its own rules for pot sales. The federal government and the provinces also still need to publish regulations that will govern the cannabis trade.
Many questions remain unanswered, including how police will test motorists suspect of driving under the influence, what to do about those with prior marijuana convictions and just how the rules governing home cultivation will work.
The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Manitoba have already decided to ban home-grown pot, even though the federal bill specifies that individuals can grow up to four plants per dwelling.
“Provinces can set their own laws. If individuals are challenging that law, they can challenge it,” Wilson-Raybould said.
Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said discussions for pardons of past convictions “can’t take place” until legalization is in effect.
In the neighboring US, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. California, home to one in eight Americans, launched the United States’ biggest legal marijuana marketplace on Jan 1.