It is amazing to me how studiously most news reports on the Afghan opium poppy trade avoid any discussion at all of the most obvious approach to minimizing the extent to which the trade subsidizes the Taliban -- and has subsidized all manner of violent political groups around the world for decades. The best way to undermine these groups is to legalize heroin. The price will plummet as the prohibition premium declines, drug problems will become easier to manage at both the individual and societal level, and lifewill be less violent, a little simpler, and a little freer.
What kind of profit? According the the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2004 a kilogram of heroin no. 4 in Pakistan sold for $4,027, and in Afghanistan for $4,000. In the U.S. in 2004 the price for a kilo of No. 4 was about $66,250.
But check these stories from the NYT and the WaPo on the same office's recent report on opium in Afghanistan. One headline writer (WaPo) tried a positive spin, and it's true the report said opium production fell 10% and the amount of land used to cultivate it fell 22%. No discussion of the fact that this means cultivation has become more efficient. And deeper in the story is the news that the Taliban has enough to supply the world demand for two years hidden away. Why not reduce the value of the stockpile to next to nothing?