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Biofuel, Not Drugs

03/12/2009 08:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I wrote a piece a few weeks back on Afghanistan's potential biofuel revolution and I have had great responses all around. The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. Since some of you may have missed it, let me encapsulate this idea for you:

As of now, Afghanistan is the largest source of opium and heroin in the world due to their huge crops of poppies. Where poppies have been removed, cannabis has been planted, making them a major supplier of the world's hash and marijuana as well. Besides all of these drugs moving onto the international black market, the profits flow directly to the terrorist groups and warlords whom we are currently in the Middle East to subdue. With this simple plan, we can hook up to both ends of the pipeline and use it to solve problems instead of causing them. Here it is, in 4 easy steps:

1. First and foremost, the US buys every hectare of poppies grown in Afghanistan, paying above black market prices straight to farmers. Provided money talks (as it usually does) we remove all of the plants and thereby all of the opium and heroin which would have been produced from it. The black market for these drugs will experience a staggering drop in supply worldwide. The US can either destroy the poppies or sell them to Big Pharma for legal opiates.

2. The only condition we attach is that they replace these crops with industrial hemp for use as biofuel. They are long accustomed to growing cannabis for drug use and have cultivated the plant for thousands of years. Per acre, there is no more productive plant for biofuel, period. It needs no pesticides or fertilizer and it is sustainable. And they are already growing huge quantities of it all over.

3. The US arranges to buy every hectare of hemp grown in Afghanistan, again paying above black market prices straight to farmers. This takes all of their cannabis off the black market for drug usage and assures them a fair value for their efforts, not to mention a new supply of income, fuel, food and fiber.

4. We connect Afghanistan directly into the international biofuel chain, making them the largest producer of biofuel in the world. They grow industrial hemp and use the plant and seed mainly for biofuel, but also for food and fiber, among its thousands of other uses.

By taking all the drugs off of the black market and paying farmers directly for their crops, we take away a major source of funding for the Taliban, Al Qaeda and local warlords. We take away enemy funds for the War on Terror and illegal drugs from the War on Drugs. It is a win-win situation for the US, for Afghanistan and for the world. But it cannot be done unless we have an honest debate about hemp/cannabis and apply rigorously empirical scientific data.

We are on the cusp of understanding the power of hemp and truly harnessing the potential of the plant. Turning Afghanistan's "drug problem" into a biofuel solution needs only a change in how we frame hemp and cannabis and how we co-opt it's use into solving problems, not creating them.

Robbie Gennet 2009

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