"OPIUM FOR THE PEOPLE"
Tony Blair reportedly "is considering calls to legalise poppy production ... [to] cut medical shortages of opiates worldwide, curb smuggling - and hit the insurgents" (The Independent - U.K., April 1). Discussion of any change in long-standing, dismally ineffective, drug-war policies is welcome. The problem here, however, is the continuing focus on illegal supply while ignoring demand. As long as millions of people worldwide seek opiates that are not indicated for pain control, there'll be an illicit traffic to meet that demand. And when it comes to purchasing the opium crop from Afghan farmers, there's no way legitimate businesses supplying physicians and their patients will be able to compete with those whose intended consumers are obliged to patronize the black market.
There is a more promising approach: rather than just legalize production, legalize the use by and prescribing to those dependent on opiates.