I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.
It’s April 20th, the unofficial holiday of 420. It’s that special day of the year when stoners around the world decide that discretion is not the better part of valor and liberally advertise their use of marijuana. Accordingly, we’ll try to rethink Afghanistan from that angle, and be completely honest about its marijuana use. Today is the perfect day after all, when you have reports like this in the Asia Times:
In addition to being the world’s leading producer of opium, Afghanistan has now become the largest producer of hashish, according to the first-ever cannabis survey released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) this month. Again, the US invasion is behind the new record.
The 2009 Afghanistan Cannabis Survey revealed that there is large-scale cannabis cultivation in half (17 out of 34) of Afghanistan’s provinces, covering a total area of 10,000 to 24,000 hectares every year (lower than opium cultivation, which covers 125,000 hectares). Afghanistan’s crop yield is so high at 145 kilograms of resin per hectare that it overtakes other leading producers like Morocco, where cannabis covers a larger land area but whose yield is lower, at 40 kg/ha.
It is estimated that Afghanistan produces 1,500-3,500 tons of hashish annually, an industry involving 40,000 households. The total export value of Afghan hashish is still unknown, but its farm-gate value – the income paid to farmers – is estimated at about US$40-$95 million, roughly 15% that of opium ($438 million in 2009).
Now because of all the COINdinista mythology that’s been beaten into your head, you probably think I’m going to rant about the drug trade supporting the insurgency and the international criminal-terrorism nexus and all that scary sounding stuff. Not true. The Taliban get their funding from a myriad of sources; Ransoms, charities, and even a formalized taxation system on the local economies. That is, if they’re not running the local businesses themselves. We could incinerate every last iota of opium and cannabis in the entire country and all we’d do is bankrupt and starve the farmers. The insurgency wouldn’t even blink, they’d be too busy recruiting those farmers. No, if we want to talk about drugs and Afghanistan, we’ve got to look at our allies in the war. Continue Reading