Fifth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Abstract

The fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will be of particular interest in view of the importance of its agenda.

Details

Pages: 34 to 36
Creation Date: 1950/01/01

OFFICIAL SECTION

Fifth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will be of particular interest in view of the importance of its agenda.

As at its previous sessions, the Commission will devote part of the session to the consideration of matters referred to it under the international conventions and protocols on narcotic drugs. One of these matters will be the study of the annual reports forwarded by the Governments on the control of narcotic drugs in their territories. The suppression of the illicit traffic will also be the subject of discussions in the Commission, which will have before it a series of bi-monthly summaries prepared by the Secretariat reproducing the substance of the reports on this matter forwarded by the Governments. Trends in the illicit traffic and the geographical movement of it will be closely studied by the Commission. The laws and regulations relating to narcotic drugs, communicated by the various countries, the Secretariat's progress report on the work of the Division of Narcotic Drugs, the reports of the Permanent Central Board and the Supervisory Body, and the progress made in the Far East in the suppression of opium smoking, will form other items on the agenda.

While it is not intended to list all the items which will be placed on the agenda by the Secretary-General ex officio and those which may be proposed for inclusion by the Governments, it should be noted that new legislation relating to the coca leaf was recently introduced in Argentina, Bolivia + Peru and will be reproduced in the next issue of the Bulletin.

The first is the preparation of a new single convention on narcotic drugs in order to achieve the following objectives:

To unite in a single legal instrument the established regulations and the provisions of the eight international instruments now in force; to simplify the existing system of international control, which would comprise only two bodies instead of three, and only one secretariat; to extend and strengthen international control (plants cultivated under international control and intended solely for medical use, complete prohibition of the use of certain drugs, centralization of control); to adapt the control to economic, social and legal developments; to facilitate the adjustment of such control in the future and to make it more flexible by simplifying the methods and rules and thus effect savings in time and expenditure by closer co-ordination.

The second question is the report of the Commission appointed by the Economic and Social Council to inquire, on the spot, into the effects of chewing the coca leaf and the possibility of limiting its production and distribution. The Commission's terms of reference and membership were given in the Bulletin on Narcotics for October 1949 (see pages 22-23 and 41).

After spending three months in Peru and Bolivia the Commission returned at the beginning of December to Lake Success where it began at once to draft its report, which will be submitted through the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to the Economic and Social Council during its session. The report is now being printed and will be published in July 1950.

It should be noted that new legislation relating to the coca leaf was recently introduced in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru and is reproduced in this issue of the Bulletin.

The third question which deserves mention in these columns is the report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the principal opium-producing countries.

On several occasions the League of Nations attempted to solve the complex problem of effective limitation of opium production, but its work was interrupted by the war. In the new circumstances the United Nations decided, in view of the new factors which have altered the problem in detail, to tackle the problem by stages, the first and most important stage being to secure the accession of the principal opium-producing countries to the necessary agreements for the limitation of production. It was for this purpose that the Economic and Social Council approved a proposal by its Commission on Narcotic Drugs for a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of the principal opium-producing countries, which met at Ankara from 21 November to 7 December 1949, as arranged, the Governments of India, Iran, Turkey and Yugoslavia being represented.

The Committee was confronted by very considerable difficulties, which are inherent in any attempt to reach an agreement of this kind, and first elaborated in some detail the proposed structure for an interim agreement under which the Governments would have been enabled to put into effect their intention of limiting the production of raw opium to medical and scientific requirements.

The Ad Hoc Committee decided unanimously that such limitation should be based on estimates of the Governments' opium requirements to be furnished annually by them to a co-ordinating authority. It proposed further that at national level the interim agreement should be given effect through Government opium monopolies which would be operated on a generally uniform pattern in all producing countries of which the Governments had become parties to the interim agreement.

The concept of the Government monopoly would be applied to the international plane by the creation of an international purchasing and selling agency. The Committee considered this innovation in the field of international relations to be an essential part of the final solution of the allied problems of opium-drug addiction and the illicit traffic in opium and opium drugs, since it would render valuable assistance in eliminating the considerable over-production which up to the present has fed that trade and made possible the clandestine manufacture of drugs. The agency, which would be established as a non-profit-making, self-supporting corporation, would be under the obligation to buy each year from the opium monopolies of Governments parties to the interim agreement their total production of opium over and above any required for use within the country in question. Such opium monopolies would be entitled to sell only to the agency, which would itself assume the reciprocal obligation of limiting its purchases of opium from the monopolies. Similarly, the agency would have a monopoly in the trade to countries desirous of importing opium for the manufacture of drugs or for other medical or scientific purposes.

Finally, the Committee envisaged the establishment of a co-ordinating authority which would take the executive decisions required to ensure the smooth application of the agreement, the drawing up of the estimates of opium requirements and the notification of the proportion of production allocated, and which might prescribe sanctions in any case of continued over-production of raw opium.

The Committee did not overlook the fact that, logically, the draft agreement should be submitted for consideration to a joint meeting of representatives of the principal drug-manufacturing countries and of representatives of the principal opium-producing countries before being submitted for approval to the Economic and Social Council.

At a meeting held on 29 May 1950 the Interim Committee on Programme of Meetings (Economic and Social Council) considered the steps to be taken to give effect to the proposal of the Ad Hoc Committee and a proposal of the Government of France that the joint meeting should be preceded by a meeting of representatives of the principal drug-manufacturing countries.

While the Committee agreed that, in general, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs should meet annually, it recognized that adequate time should be given to the members of the Commission to study results which might be expected from the preliminary meetings held in connexion with the proposed Interim Opium Agreement before the fifth session of the Commission, and that technical considerations would render it difficult for that session to be held before the end of 1950.

The Committee decided to recommend the following resolution for adoption by the Economic and Social Council:

"The Economic and Social Council

"Decides

"To invite

  1. The Governments of the principal opium-producing countries (viz. India, Iran, Turkey, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Yugoslavia) and of the principal drug-manufacturing countries having membership in the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (viz. France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America) to send representatives to meet as a Joint Committee at Geneva on 14 August 1950, and

  2. The Governments of the other States members of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and of the other principal drug-manufacturing countries (viz. Belgium, Italy and Switzerland) to send observers to the meetings of that Committee.

"To invite the Governments of the principal drug-manufacturing countries (viz. Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America) to be represented in the same manner as in the Joint Committee referred to in the preceding paragraph, at a special session to be convened for 7 August.

"To postpone, as an exceptional measure, the opening of the fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to 8 January 1951, and to convene this session at the headquarters of the United Nations.

"To hold the sixth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs during August-September 1951."

Finally, at its eleventh session, on 10 July 1950, the Economic and Social Council decided that the fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs would be held at the headquarters of the United Nations from 30 November to 16 December 1950.