Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I'm not an expert on Afghanistan. But it seems that judging from all I've read about Afghanistan, we're really asking for trouble, and putting impossible or undesirable goals before them and us-- really just the same thing we do with the "War on Drugs"-- if we're really going to insist on those goals, which are: (1) end warlordism and (2) end growing of opium poppies for profit. Growing the poppies is so prolific and hard to stamp out, that I feel like in this poverty-ridden country, we can't produce a good economy and end gangsterism if we insist on eradicating it. It's like one of those boardwalk games of whack-a-mole.

What is seems we need to do to solve the problem without totally pissing on Afghanistan is to provide something like an equal replacement for the poppy cultivation. After all, what's an easier way to get someone to stop doing something you think you need to get them to stop, and that they feel they need and they insist on doing, than giving them something instead of it that satisfies all the need they were having satisfied by the thing you want them to give up? What this is in this case is, I think, a marijuana market.

I have felt for a long time that legalization of at least some recreational drug use should be a priority for the U.S. So this will be killing two birds with one stone, since it can help our problems with Afghanistan as well. First, I'll tell how it will help the U.S. The war on drugs is a joke-- it's poorly fought, it never gains any ground in stamping out drug use or the drug trade no matter how many busts there are, and the people who suffer for it are working-class people who could end up doing good things with their lives and being good Democrats, as well as violent crime victims who the police could protect instead of wasting their time hunting marijuana peddlers. Marijuana is the least harmful of the illegal drugs-- really harmless-- so it makes the most sense to legalize. Finally, the people who are busted for marijuana are from demographics that skew more Democrat than Republican, so taking away the effect on them and their communities of the arrests and imprisonment by legalizing marijuana would have a great effect on our politics (not in the least, because the states often take away a person's right to vote for being convicted of a felony).

How could this help Afghanistan? Well, we make marijuana legal in the U.S., but only from special shops that sell only marijuana that is grown in Afghanistan. There will be a huge market since there is already a lot of demand for marijuana in the U.S.-- a few years ago, the number all American adults who had used marijuana at least once in their lives was something like 50%. This will provide an incentive to the Afghanis to actually give up poppy cultivation, which may make Afghanistan safer. Since the marijuana trade will be a legitimate trade, Afghanis will sell their crops to non-criminal middlemen or to the U.S. government, and American troops won't have to fight with warlords who are being propped up by the poppies and who throw their weight around to protect their revenue from the crops. In other words, it will take away incentive both from gangsters to be gangsters, and from farmers to deal with gansters. This will all of course help the Afghani economy.

One more benefit to America: even if buying non-Afghani marijuana is kept illegal (to buffer the market for Afghani marijuana), the legal Afghani marijuana will create a huge new incentive for people in America to stay away from crime and the crime-culture: Who wants to risk getting locked up to get some marijuana when you can easily walk a few blocks to a store and get it legally?

What's standing in the way of all this is, as usual, politics. The Republicans don't like to go back on something they've been insisting on forever. Contrary to facts, they've had preachers insisting to people that marijuana is from the devil and that it ruins lives. Well, maybe it ruins your life if a bunch of cops come knocking on your door. Otherwise it's about the same as drinking a glass of liquor.