The Post-1950s Rise of Illegal Opium in Asia

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2022 / The Oxford Handbook of Global Drug History.

Opium, the ancient narcotic, has fascinated the West where tastes for the exotic arose alongside British and French colonialism. The mystery of poppy origins is equaled by the opacity of the two largest illegal opium-producing regions that emerged after 1950: the so-called Golden Triangle, in Burma (Myanmar) in mainland Southeast Asia; and Golden Crescent, in Afghanistan, in Southwest Asia. Illegal opium production in these two regions developed as part of the deep historical, geographic, and political complexity that explain their remoteness, lawlessness, and protracted armed conflicts. As a result, scholars of various disciplines have long researched opium production, trade, consumption, and traditions. This chapter examines the causes and dynamics of illegal opium production, including how illegal opium production has benefited from the turmoil of Asian history and geopolitics, from synergies between war economies and drug economies, from underdevelopment and poverty, and from decades of failed often-counterproductive anti-drug policies.

Why the concept of terroir matters for drug cannabis production

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2022 / GeoJournal.

This article questions how the concepts of terroir and landrace are relevant for the drug cannabis industry at a time when cannabis legalisation and its associated ‘‘green rush’’ pose a growing threat to both the genetic and cultural diversity that is associated with historical small cannabis farming. The article draws on a multidisciplinary approach based on both extensive secondary sources and primary research.
A large and detailed definition work first informs what terroir and landrace are and most especially what they have in common, from the typicity of their end products, to how they owe their existence to geographic remoteness and isolation, and to how tradition and change (or modernity) affect their development and conservation. Defining and connecting terroirs and landraces in historical, anthropological, environmental, and of course chemical terms, makes it possible to determine how cannabis terroirs compare with and differ from other terroirs and plants, based on the rare dual qualities of the plant (being both a food and a drug) but also, given the illegality of its cultivation, on the specific territorial characteristics of its production areas, notably their geographic remoteness and isolation, their politico-territorial control deficits, etc.
The article concludes that acknowledging and protecting cannabis terroirs and landraces matters because it favours the conservation and the promotion of a biological, cultural, and sensorial diversity that has endured illegality and repression but is now threatened by legalisation.

Les frontières, fronts inefficaces de la lutte contre le trafic international de drogue

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2019 / Espace politique.

Au regard de l’évolution des productions illégales de drogue des dernières décennies, et même des dernières années, le bilan de la prohibition mondiale apparaît clairement négatif. L’échec des mesures de lutte contre le trafic de drogue est tout aussi évident, ainsi que le montre cet article à travers l’étude succincte des dimensions frontalières du trafic terrestre entre l’Afghanistan et l’Iran, du trafic aérien depuis l’Amérique andine, et du trafic maritime transatlantique. En effet, en dépit d’une débauche de moyens financiers, humains, matériels, technologiques, et malgré des taux d’interception parfois élevés, le trafic de drogue n’a jamais été sérieusement et durablement remis en cause. Après avoir constaté et expliqué l’inefficacité de la lutte contre le trafic de drogue aux frontières, cet article estime qu’une politique efficace de lutte contre les trafics doit d’autant plus éviter le tout répressif que son efficacité est aussi faible que son coût est élevé. In fine, les efforts d’interdiction ne devraient pas seulement viser à réaliser des saisies et à renforcer les contrôles aux frontières mais aussi à rendre l’espace et les sociétés moins propices aux trafics.

Illegal cannabis cultivation in the world, and as a subject in academic research

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2019 / EchoGéo.

Illegal cannabis cultivation as a worldwide phenomenon is the theme of this edition of EchoGéo. The authors who contributed to this edition have conducted research on a variety of countries and regions (by order of appearance: the world, the African continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Afghanistan, the United States of America, Europe).

Cannabis cultivation in the world: heritages, trends and challenges

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2019 / Echogéo.

Despite cannabis being the most common illegal drug crop in the world and its worldwide presence, very little is known about its production, trade, and consumption at the global scale. This is due mostly to over a century of global prohibition and the dangers associated to researching illegal drug crop production. Worse, the limited data available about cannabis cultivation is most often inaccurate, unreliable, and highly controversial. While this has always been problematic, in terms of sheer knowledge and informed policy-making, it has now become even more acute of an issue as global trends towards decriminalisation and legalisation are already provoking negative unintended consequences in poor producing countries. This article is an effort to present the state of the current knowledge and the present and future stakes of the fast-changing cannabis industry and legislation.

Territorial control and the scope and resilience of cannabis and other illegal drug crop cultivation

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2019 / EchoGéo.

As revealed by the examples of Morocco, northeast India, Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, and the United States of America, degrees of politico-territorial control or law-enforcement deficit by the state can explain, to some extent, the existence of large expanses of illegal drug cultivation. Causes of politico-territorial control deficit are many and non-exclusive. They include armed conflicts, corruption, loosely integrated territories, and lack of financial, human and material means of asserting state control. Large-scale illegal drug crop cultivation can take place according to three main scenarios: that of a full-fledged but inefficient war on drugs; that of toleration, for various motives, of illegal drug plant cultivation by the state (which can amount to negotiated but effective control); and that of the militarily-challenged state that cannot exert full control over its territory. The fact that total politico-territorial control by the state, no matter how powerful and resourceful, is deemed impossible, shows that the war on drugs is doomed to fail despite how many battles were won. Eventually, the very limits of the state’s politico-territorial control, when applied to counter-narcotics and law enforcement, implicitly question the illegality of a practice that is considered legitimate by many.