Sixth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Abstract

The sixth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was held at Permanent Headquarters in Manhattan, from 10 April to 24 May 1951. The exceptional length of this session was due to the fact that it had to discuss fully the problem of limiting the production of opium to medical and scientific needs. Because of the importance of the question certain countries were invited to send observers: Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. Burma and Thailand were also represented by observers when the Commission took up the Burmese proposal for the creation of a United Nations committee to deal with the suppression of the cultivation of the opium poppy and of the traffic in opium in South East Asia, where the problem is serious.

Details

Pages: 43 to 44
Creation Date: 1951/01/01

OFFICIAL

Sixth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The sixth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was held at Permanent Headquarters in Manhattan, from 10 April to 24 May 1951. The exceptional length of this session was due to the fact that it had to discuss fully the problem of limiting the production of opium to medical and scientific needs. Because of the importance of the question certain countries were invited to send observers: Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. Burma and Thailand were also represented by observers when the Commission took up the Burmese proposal for the creation of a United Nations committee to deal with the suppression of the cultivation of the opium poppy and of the traffic in opium in South East Asia, where the problem is serious.

At this session the Chairman was Mr. A. N. Sattanathan (India), the Vice-Chairman, Dr. Oscar Rabasa (Mexico), Second Vice-Chairman, Dr. Ali K. Fahmy (Egypt), and Mr. Samuel Hoare (United Kingdom) was the Rapporteur.

The problem of limiting opium production to medical and scientific needs was no longer a problem of principle: the Commission had already accepted this limitation at its fourth session (see: Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. III, no. 2) and, in pursuance of previous decisions, a certain measure of agreement had been reached: shares of production for each country, necessity for an international opium monopoly. In addition, there had been a French proposal for an international alkaloids monopoly. However, agreement had not been reached on certain questions, because of the irreconcilable position of various delegations on such questions as the prices at which the proposed monopoly should conduct its opium transactions, the competition from alkaloids manufactured from poppy-straw, the possibility that certain opium-producing countries would start manufacturing and even exporting alkaloids, and the precise form which international inspection should take. These difficulties being apparent from the start of the session, it seemed that the various positions had not evolved towards a possible agreement, but rather that they had become more intransigent; the present world situation indeed seemed to be against - at any rate for the moment - the conclusion of agreements based on an exact price for raw materials and an international inspection system.

The Commission stressed the fact that this situation was temporary in nature, and that the principle of limi tation was in no way questioned, nor was the advantage of constituting an international opium monopoly. The Commission, since it faced this deadlock, started exploring other avenues. The French representative then submitted a proposal, which, he contended, might constitute a method of solving this problem which consisted chiefly in adapting to opium the provisions of the 1931 Convention. This proposal provided for:

(1) A system of estimates;

(2) Statistical returns;

(3) Indirect limitation of production and import by means of limiting the opium stocks authorized for each party to the protocol;

(4) Establishment of national opium monopolies;

(5) Control of the non-medical use of opium;

(6) International control permitting imposition of embargoes and local inquiries.

This proposal was discussed at length and the Commission felt that it could not come to a final decision on this plan. It accordingly nominated a Drafting Committee and adopted a text stating that the draft protocol prepared by this Committee "represents a step" in the direction of limiting the production of opium to medical and scientific needs. The text was based on the conception of the maintenance of free competition in the opium trade, and it provided that no country which did not export opium in 1950 should be permitted to export opium in future; the formation of cartels either by purchasers or by sellers of opium was prohibited; no country might hold stocks of opium above a certain maximum level, which was to be fixed by the PCOB. A new provision in this machinery was that whereby a country upon which an embargo had been imposed by the Board might appeal to a specially constituted tribunal. Having adopted these principles on 18 May, the Commission decided, by 8 votes for, 2 against, with 2 abstentions, to recommend to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of a resolution entitled: "Principles of the Proposed Protocol relating to the Limitation of the Production of Opium", reading as follows:

"The Economic and Social Council

"Conscious of the importance of international efforts for the prevention of the development of drug addiction;

" Consideringthat for this purpose effective measures should be taken to further the progress made under the 1925 and 1931 Conventions, in particular by seeking to limit the production of opium to medical and scientific needs;

" Consideringthat present circumstances make the establishment of an international opium monopoly coupled with a monopoly of alkaloids difficult for the time being;

" Consideringthat it is nevertheless desirable to take such measures to further this aim as are practicable at the present time;

" Adoptsin general the principles of the protocol relating to limitation of the production of opium drafted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs during its sixth session;

" Requeststhe Secretary-General to submit these principles to the Members of the United Nations and to non-member States parties to the international treaties on narcotics for the communication of their observations thereon before (date)with a view to the preparation for the next session of the Council of an annotated compendium of these observations;

" Decidesto study at an early session, in the light of the observations made, the possibility of convening an international conference entrusted with the task of preparing and adopting a protocol relating to the limitation of the production of opium."

Thus the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, considering the present moment unfavourable to the establishment of an international opium monopoly, sought other means, in view of the circumstances, to work towards its goal, which is the limitation in general and by all means of the production and of the distribution of narcotics to legitimate uses.

The greater part of its time having been thus devoted to the discussion of the limitation problem, the Commission was unable to treat in detail the second major problem in the narcotics field, the proposed Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs intended to replace the eight international instruments (see document E/CN.7/AC.3/3, and Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. II, nos. 1, 2) on narcotics. At present the governments represented on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs are considering the Draft Single Convention, and it will not be possible to consider calling an international conference on this matter until they have submitted their observations.

The Commission also studied the questions which regularly come up at each session and which deal with the application of existing Conventions, particularly illicit traffic. In this respect, the Commission examined the question of heroin production in Italy and its diversion into the illicit traffic and, while congratulating the Italian Government on the measures it had already taken for stopping this traffic, it decided to ask that Government to make every effort for the safeguarding of the heroin stocks and to deal firmly with all violations. The question arose of the disposition of seized drugs; the representative of Egypt was of the opinion that the government executing the seizure should be allowed to deal with it as it thought best. However, this view aroused strong opposition-particularly by opium-producing countries-and it was decided to put two alternative solutions to the Council for its decision: either destruction of the seized drugs, or else, conditional disposal of the drugs by the governments.

On the other hand, studying the question of propaganda on the abuse of narcotics, the Commission finally decided that it was a matter for caution and that propaganda and education should be used only in those countries where such abuse was prevalent and this resolution was to be transmitted, if approved, by the Economic and Social Council, to UNESCO.

Finally, the Commission had an opportunity to apply article 2 of the Paris Protocol on synthetic drugs in the case of two new drugs known as "Nu-1932" and "Nu-2206". Those two products are at present being examined by the World Health Organization which will take a final decision as to their likelihood of producing addiction. Pending this decision the Commission has put the above-mentioned drugs under international control.

The Commission has set the second week in April 1952 for holding its seventh session.