The Internet is now a key tool for the distribution of illegal drugs. That is one of the main assessments in a new U.N. report to be released later this week. Other issues of concern stress that efforts must be made to stop the production of heroin poppy in Afghanistan.
Ambassador Herbert Okun is the U.S. representative on the U.N. International Narcotics Control Board, known as the INCB. He says that advances in Internet technology are now making it easier for drug dealers to buy and sell narcotics online.
And that, says Mr. Okun, is no surprise. "Traffickers and the criminal elements tend to be very quick in using new technologies, and the first 'W' and the second 'W' stand for 'World Wide', so the web has become a vehicle," he said. "Of course it is a vehicle for good, but the dark side is you can trade illegal substances on it."
Mr. Okun made clear the report is not calling for censorship of the web in order to crack down on illegal drug sales. Instead he called for a sensible international response.
Another key issue raised by Mr. Okun is the cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan. For years, Afghanistan has been the world's leader in production of poppy, from which heroin is processed. The new interim administration in Kabul has pledged to crack down on poppy growers, but Mr. Okun says these efforts have not been entirely successful.
To combat the problem, he argues that efforts need to be made to provide alternative crops to Afghan farmers to compensate for the profits they would make by growing poppy.
"Afghanistan under the Taleban held a supply of heroin that is heroin, not just the poppies, that we estimate as a three to six-year supply. Some of that has been unloaded since the war began, but plenty of it is there anyway," he said. "This means serious crop substitution programs and a lot of help from the international community to help the peasants who are not at fault any more than the cocoa farmers in Colombia and Bolivia are at fault."
Other concerns raised include efforts in some European countries for the decriminalization of marijuana. The full INCB report will be released later this week.