Pubdate: Thu, 30 Aug 2007
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2007 Southam Inc.
Author: Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Poppy)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


U.K. Dismisses Poll Backing Limited Legalization

OTTAWA - Britain's top diplomat in Canada has dismissed a poll, 
commissioned by the international think-tank that is championing the 
legalization of Afghanistan's contentious opium poppy crop, which 
shows that Canadians overwhelmingly support for the use of Afghan 
opium for medicinal purposes.

"It is a surprise that people reach for silver bullets," British High 
Commissioner Anthony Cary said in an interview yesterday.

Mr. Cary was responding to the release of an Ipsos Reid survey of 
1,000 Canadians, conducted on behalf of the Senlis Council, which 
found that nearly eight in 10 Canadians (79%) want Prime Minister 
Stephen Harper to back an international pilot project that would help 
transform Afghanistan's illicit opium cultivation into a legal way of 
providing codeine and other legitimate pain medications to the 
international market.

The release of the poll yesterday comes two days after the United 
Nations' latest audit of the poppy farming trade found that 
Afghanistan's production of opium, the key ingredient in heroin, has 
now reached record levels in the six years that western nations have 
controlled the country.

Britain is a key Canadian ally in southern Afghanistan. It is 
responsible for Helmand Province, where the UN report found that 
poppy cultivation has increased 48%, making it a bigger opium 
producer than any other single country in the world.

In Kandahar province, where Canada's 2,500 troops are stationed, 
opium cultivation rose by 32%, the UN study found.

Mr. Cary noted that while opium production has been licensed in such 
places as Thailand and Turkey, it took 15 years to achieve such a 
system. Afghanistan simply lacks the infrastructure and regulatory 
framework to cultivate opium legally and to keep it out of the hands 
of drug dealers, he said.

The European-funded Senlis Council, headed by Canadian lawyer Norine 
MacDonald, has been a long-time proponent of legalizing Afghanistan's 
massive poppy-farming and opium-cultivation trade. Their proposals 
are widely rejected by the United Nations, NATO and their various 
western allies.

This week, the UN said for the first time that the illicit trade is 
directly linked to funding of the Taliban insurgency that threatens 
Canada and its military allies.

The Canadian government, along with its Western allies, rejects the 
legalization of the opium trade, in part because the Afghan 
government in Kabul views it as un-Islamic.

The Senlis survey, conducted by the same Toronto-based polling firm 
used by the CanWest News Service, shows overwhelming support for 
legalizing the Afghan poppy in Canada.

The poll, conducted Aug. 14-16, also found that 82% of respondents 
opposed the U.S.-led policy of chemical spraying to eradicate 
poppies, while seven of 10 respondents said they would be willing to 
use "fair trade" Afghan-made morphine, as long as it conformed to 
international standards.

The survey has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom