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The Global Opioid Supply Chain Begins in Tasmania

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Pharmaceutical companies exploited a regulatory loophole that allowed for a decades-long boom in licit opioid production fueled by Tasmanian-grown poppies. Here’s what the island can tell us—and why supply matters for solving the third wave of the overdose crisis.

Heading into the highlands of Tasmania, some 250 miles south of the Australian mainland, narrow black-topped roads meander through a wide river valley bounded by distant mountain bluffs. Two-track paths splinter off into grassy pastures, past skeletal trees bleached by sun and drought. All along the way, small signs dangle from wire fence lines: Danger Prohibited Area Poison. Little else would suggest that these fields represent the nucleus of the global opioid supply chain—the starting point for one of the world’s largest drug markets.

In Bothwell, a village where trucks packed with sheep idle outside a gas station, I met a farmer named Will Bignell. Bignell, a boyish guy in his thirties, with tousled hair and bright green eyes, was something of a reluctant seventh-generation farmer. He’d left his family’s farm in the midst of a prolonged drought, moved to Hobart, Tasmania‘s capital city, and started a family. Then, in 2009, Bignell began making the hour-long commute up to the farm. Instead of raising livestock, Bignell plowed up pasture land and planted his first crop of opium poppies—a particular varietal, in fact, custom-tailored for pharmaceutical drug manufacturers.

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !