Drug policy group calls for licensing Afghan opium production

Afghanistan could reduce its enormous heroin trade by licensing an opium crop to produce medical morphine for export, a drug policy group said Monday, but the United Nations dismissed the idea as unlikely to work.

The Senlis Council, a France-based group founded in 2002, released results of a study examining the potential for licensing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan which produces an estimated 87 percent of the world's supply of both opium and its derivative, heroin.

The study argues for "licensed opium production in Afghanistan to provide essential medicine," the group's executive director Emmanuel Reinert said ahead of the study's release at a symposium in Kabul.

Transforming some illegal poppy fields into legal ones could "address both the drug policy crisis in Afghanistan and the pain crisis in developing countries," which he said need opium-based painkillers to treat patients with cancer, AIDS and other diseases.

The Afghanistan representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime called the idea a "pipe dream" whose time has not come.

Afghanistan's booming drug trade is suspected to be partially funding an insurgency here and has sparked warnings that the country is becoming a "narco-state" less than four years after a U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power, reports the AP.

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