In 2011 we produced the feature documentary Raw Opium, an exploration of the pain, pleasure and profits of the opium trade.
We travelled the world to uncover how opium is grown and refined into heroin in Afghanistan, and then transported and used in North America, Europe and worldwide. We revealed the forces that make the illegal narcotic trade possible, even amidst a strict system of enforcement. We also discovered alternative ways to deal with the challenges, like Portugal’s bold initiative to decriminalize all drugs.
Today, the human and societal destruction is still with us. So we want to share a recent article from the New York Times that could be considered the next chapter in the story of Raw Opium. It details the evolution of the drug trade and the war that’s still being waged against it.
Some details from the article: The importance of the heroin trade to the Afghan economy and the Taliban is astonishing. Heroin accounts for 16% of Afghanistan’s GDP. The narcotic makes up at least 60% of the Taliban’s income. At the end of opium’s journey from the fields of Asia to the streets of North America there’s an even more astonishing number: 90% of heroin found on the streets of Canada comes from Afghanistan.
Traditionally, the Taliban profited extensively from the opium trade by taxing sales of manufacturers and gained revenue by providing security services to manufacturers. However, with an increasing number of opium refineries in the country, it’s become apparent that the Taliban are becoming producers and owners of opium refineries. The U.S. spends eight billion dollars per year in a military war on opium… with little result.
The story that we tell in Raw Opium is just as relevant today as when we made it. You can watch the documentary right now, on demand.