opiates

Burmese opium farmers protest eradication

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

South East AsiaThe White House has announced a partial lifting of sanctions on Burma in recognition of progress in its democratic transition. Restrictions are to be dropped on state-owned banks and businesses, although some 100 companies and individuals linked to the armed forces will remain iced. This relaxation comes at the request of longtime democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, who although barred from holding the presidency is effectively the country’s leader following November's elections. But human rights concerns remain—especially around the fate of the Rohingya Muslims, persecuted and made stateless by the military junta that has now (mostly) surrendered power. And the multiple ethnic insurgencies in Burma's opium-producing northern mountains, while receiving less world media attention lately, continue to vex the country.

Obama signs draconian new drug law

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Shadow WatchTo little fanfare, President Barack Obama on May 16 signed into law the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act—further extending the global reach of US narcotics enforcement. The law criminalizes manufacture of drugs anywhere in the world if the producers "intend, know, or have probable cause to believe" the substances will be illegally imported into the United States. The language has been attacked as overbroad, potentially applying to any link of the production chain—down to lowly peasant growers of cannabis, coca leaf or opium.

US anti-opium effort in Afghanistan: total failure

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Afghanistan John F. Sopko, the Pentagon's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, gave a sobering assessment last week of the situation in the country 15 years after the fall of the Taliban. Corruption is endemic and security practically non-existent. More than 700 schools have been closed in recent months due to the ongoing insurgency. And despite at least $7 billion in counter-narcotics spending, opium production hit 3,300 tons in 2015—exactly the same level it was in 2001 when the US invaded.

Anti-drug vigilantes heat up Burma's opium zone

Posted on March 1st, 2016 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

South East AsiaWith the harvest season just weeks away, tensions are high in Burma's opium-producing Kachin state following a series of clashes between opium-growing peasants and a local citizen anti-drug movement. Pat Jasan, a patrol established two years ago by the Kachin Baptist Church, has been in repeated confrontations over the past weeks at Kachin's Waingmaw township. The most recent, on Feb. 25, resulted in at least 20 Pat Jasan followers wounded in gunfire and grenade blasts. The vigilantes were apparently set upon by a heavily-armed force while clearing poppy fields.

Was Chapo's overture to Hollywood fatal?

Posted on January 10th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

ChapoThe story of the capture of Chapo Guzmán—Mexico's top fugitive drug lord—took a turn for the surreal Jan. 9 with the relevation that Hollywood heavy Sean Penn had interviewed the kingpin when he was on the lam last year for Rolling Stone magazine. In the account, Penn describes the complicated process of estabishing contact, with encrypted communications and such, before being flown from an unnamed location in central Mexico to a "jungle clearing" for some face time. We have to be a tad skeptical here. Chapo was tracked down by Mexican federales to a luxury condo in a Sinaloa seaport—nowhere near any jungle. Even if the meeting was arranged at a remote location, it was still likely to be in Chapo's northern stronghold state of Sinaloa—and the only real jungle in Mexico is in southern Chiapas state, hundreds of miles away. Taking some liberties for dramatic effect perhaps, Sean?

Afghanistan: Taliban drive to re-take opium heartland

Posted on January 2nd, 2016 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

opiatesAs the new year opened, the Taliban pushed deeper the Sangin district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, with the Afghan army struggling to retake territory newly won by the insurgents. Kabul has sent reinforcements, but as AP reported Dec. 29, police are refusing to return to the streets even of those areas the army has supposedly secured. According to Karim Atal, director of the Helmand provincial council, security forces are for now staying inside their base in Sangin district. And this isn't just another district in Afghanistan's rugged hinterlands. Sangin is a key opium-producing district in Helmand—itself both the heartland of the Taliban insurgency and Afghan poppy cultivation. It is also straegically localted on a corridor connecting Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, to the province's northern districts. So, as the BBC News states: "Regaining full control of Sangin would increase the Taliban's mobility in the north of the province and cut a key supply line for Afghan forces with Lashkar Gah. Sangin is also a rich opium production centre—meaning potential tax revenue for the Taliban from the drugs trade."

Iran considers cannabis legalization?

Posted on October 27th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

Middle EastOxford University scholar Maziyar Ghiabi has a startling piece in Britain's The Conversation website (reprinted in The Independent) asserting that Iran's leaders are considering legalization of cannabis and opium. The Islamic Republic certainly lives up to its rep as a puritanical police state. Ghiabi admits that up to 70% of its inmates are charged with drug-related offenses (out of a total prison population of some 225,000, according to the World Prison Brief website). We've also noted a recent surge in executions in Iran, contributing to a global spike in death penalty use over the past two years. As Ghiabi writes: "Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty." But he also tells us that Iran is now pursuing the kind of harm reduction policies that actvists have long pressed for in the US, including "distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment."

ISIS exploits opium backlash to gain Afghan foothold

Posted on June 30th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

AfghanistanFighters loyal to ISIS have seized substantial territory in Afghanistan, according to an ominous Reuters report June 29. Witnesses who fled fighting in Nangarhar province told reporters that hundreds of ISIS fighters in convoys of pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns seized several villages—and put local opium fields to the torch. "They burned poppy fields in Shadal village and banned shops from selling cigarettes," said tribal elder Malek Jan. Taxing opium production is a key source of Taliban revenue, but Reuters reports that ISIS loyalists in Nangarhar appeared to have other sources of money. Witnesses said they had plenty of cash. It is unclear where the money is coming from, but it frees ISIS to stigmatize the Taliban as soft on drugs.

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