By Vanda Felbab-Brown and Bradley S. Porter

Since its 1979 revolution, Iran has developed a reputation as having some of the world’s harshest drug penalties and as an opponent of efforts to reform global drug policy. Overall, however, Iran’s drug policies have been highly varied, with some policy experimentation taking place even after the revolution. And certainly long before it, Iran experimented—perhaps more than any other country—with a wide range of policies to respond to widespread drug use and poppy cultivation, alternating between permissive and very harsh policies.

What is perhaps most surprising is how little the Iranian revolution actually changed drug policies in Iran. And while the revolution did have pronounced effects on international drug markets, they were, once again, actually less than meets the eye. Importantly, for example, poppy production was bound to go up in Afghanistan regardless.