What Can Be Done To Reduce Illicit Drug Production In Places Like Bolivia And Afghanistan?

The illicit drug industry that produces and circulates drugs like cocaine and heroine is a perennial menace for the civilized humanity that wishes to keep these drugs away. Controlling them is far from an easy task, with issues of terrorism, economic troubles and sovereignty complicating it at every step. While the international community fumes about its existence, can it really do something?
What can be done to Reduce Illicit Drug Production in Places like Bolivia and Afghanistan?
Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAfghanistan_16.jpg)

How to Control Drugs?

Production, consumption or supply - where should the illegal trade of illicit drugs, like Cocaine and Heroin, be controlled?  That is the central question of this debate, and many other similar issues that have puzzled the minds of policy makers and legislators for a long time.

Most often, the response of law-makers and leaders is to solve the problem by making laws that ban every singly activity of such trade. Unfortunately making law alone does not bring an end to the trade, it only shifts it underground. The suppliers add the cost of violating the law to the

price they demand, and the consumer has to pay because the demand for drugs is totally inelastic to changes in price. This inelastic demand, in fact, leads to another dimension of this trade, i.e.. crime indulged in by addicts who are neither able to control their urge for drugs like cocaine and heroine, nor have the money to purchase it from the illegal market. Very often, this aspect is the most dangerous part of this drug-crime syndicate.

Then what can solve a problem that even law can not resolve?

The Complex Problem of Addiction

Addiction is a complex problem, intricately linked with human and social behavior. Drug  trade is a closely related but separate issue, having its own economic dimensions of profit and loss. Production of drugs is a third issue that is closely related with trade, because trade is the connecting link between consumption (demand) and production (supply) and a thriving trade of cocaine and heroin is what sustains the illegal cultivation of coca and poppy crops. The issue becomes far more complicated when the same substance has both legitimate medicinal use, as well as illegitimate use as drugs, as in the case of cocaine and morphine. In such cases, the challenge is to allow production for the legitimate use without letting it diverted to illegitimate channels - an arduous task that can not be completed without strict elaborate supervision and the huge cost involved in it.

The Issue of National Sovereignty

By closely manipulating the variables within the sovereign jurisdiction of the state, it is possible to bring the quantity of such illegal trade down. However, the debate acquires an international political hue when the variables like production fall outside the sovereign jurisdiction and power of the state, as it happens in case of cocaine production in Bolivia and poppy crops in Afghanistan. The biggest problem is that the producers as well as their political leaders may not be willing to curtail production and sacrifice their own profits. This in a nutshell is the whole issue, and once we comprehend this much, we would be able to look for solutions that could induce the producers (read farmers) and leaders (read government) in countries like Bolivia and Afghanistan into joining the rest of the world in its fight against drugs. It also means that the debate needs to shift from a theoretical focus on ideology and legal rights to getting a solution that will make things happen.

Can Something be Done?

To begin with, it has to be a carrot and a stick game. The international community should lead an international initiative to ban illegal trade, and seek full cooperation from all countries in this endeavor, with heavy disincentives like economic sanctions applicable to defaulters. This will make the trade of drugs a costly affair thereby limiting the expansion of demand for drugs, and in turn control the price of poppy and coca crops. Here it is important to understand that the high price of drugs arises from inelastic demand and high regulation, and contrary to those who suggest open and legalized trading, the idea here is to regulate the trade in order to send the costs soaring. These high costs do not translate into higher

profits for cultivators of crops because they merely cover the risk associated in trade. In fact, by increasing the risk for traders (and the persons employed in the trade) the profits for the crop cultivators will only fall, resulting in lesser incentive for cultivators to cultivate these crops.

The next step would be to have all countries agree to an internationally accepted regime of regulation of crop cultivation, and have all countries sign and accept its conditions. For this to happen, all countries should be given equal rights and responsibilities and a neutral body should be formed to regulate and monitor the norms, thereby taking political differences and mistrust away. This regime should lay down the system of registering and reporting cultivation of these crops, as well as sharing of information with the international regulator who will also monitor and report deficiencies in implementation. Every country should be given the right to decide the area that it wishes to allow for cultivation of these crops, but simultaneously also be held responsible for the legitimate utilization of the produce. This will make sure that the information about production of these crops (and drugs made from them) is shared with international community.

The Carrot and Stick Policy

In case where the international regulator reports diversion of crop towards illegal drug production, or the crops are unaccounted for, or there is any other evidence of illegal drug production and trade allowed within a country, the international regulator should first seek full cooperation from the government of that country in preventing the illegal production and trade and if that does not help, pass strictures and sanctions against that country that will be respected by the whole international community, and place enormous pressure on the concerned government to cooperate. In democracies, such measures are likely to get support from the people of that country as well. Such a regime would create an international legal framework that would be difficult for the government and the people for that country to ignore. However, to ensure that the benefits of cultivation of crops like poppy and coca are more than offset by the international sanctions and strictures, there need to be adequate incentives and disincentives.

The incentives can come in form of import of legally cultivated crop by international community, which will be subject to the fulfillment to the international regulatory regime for crop cultivation of poppy and cocoa. Other incentives can come in form of international aid and development projects. These will need to be backed by disincentives like a threat of cancellation of all trade in regulated crops and regulated legitimate products, cancellation of aid and other projects and other economic sanctions on the defaulting country.

With such incentives and disincentives, it would be possible to induce the government and people of countries like Bolivia and Afghanistan into cooperating for controlling drug production and trade.  Even then, it would be merely a battle in a big war. The final victory in the war against drugs cannot be achieved unless the very source of its demand, the addiction can be eliminated. That, however, is a different battle to be fought on a different turf with different weapons at a different point of time, and this only will decide the fate of the war. Moreover, it is a long drawn war that is unlikely to be over anytime soon. That should be enough reason to do something to control illegal crop cultivation in the meantime.

Article Written By V Kumar

I am a freelance writer. I write for the passion of writing. Life has blessed me an opportunity to be a witness to many interesting aspects of life and people around the world. Indeed, these are very interesting times and we who live in this era are privileged to experience it. You can find my articles at http://vkumar.expertscolumn.com/

Last updated on 13-10-2017 98 0

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