The Ninth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Eighteenth Session of the Economic and Social Council
THE PERMANENT CENTRAL OPIUM BOARD AND THE DRUG SUPERVISORY BODY
MAKING OF HEROIN
THE OPIUM PROTOCOL OF 1953
Pages: 71 to 75
Creation Date: 1954/01/01
The Ninth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Eighteenth Session of the Economic and Social Council
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which held its ninth session in New York from April 19 to May 14, devoted considerable attention to measures of international and national control in the field of narcotic drugs and to implementation of international narcotic treaties. It has not yet finalized the draft code and commentary to the 1953 Opium Protocol and the draft Single Convention which has been under discussion for several sessions. It has, however, taken useful decisions which hold out promising prospects.
The Commission devoted much of its time to scientific subjects, culminating in its decision on synthetic drugs, cannabis, the origin of opium and acetic anhydride. It also considered medico-social questions and the sociological problems to which addiction to narcotic drugs gives rise. It touched upon the field of therapeutics by recommending that governments should prohibit the manufacture, export and import of heroin and ketobemidone and discontinue the medical use of cannabis preparations. Moreover, the Commission was, for the first time, able to agree that the chewing of coca leaf constitutes a form of addiction.
Observers from Argentina, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Pakistan, Switzerland, Thailand, the Union of South Africa and Viet-Nam attended the session. The Permanent Central Opium Board, the Drug Supervisory Body, the World Health Organization and the International Criminal Police Commission sent representatives who took part in the discussions. Moreover, a series of Non-Governmental Organizations were represented, namely: the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the International Conference of Catholic Charities, Pax Romana, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, the World's Alliance of Young Men's Christian Associations and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
The Commission elected as officers: Charles Vaille (France), Chairman; Harry J. Anslinger (United States of America), Vice-Chairman; E. S. Krishnamoorthy (India ),Rapporteur.
The Economic and Social Council at its eighteenth session, held in Geneva from June to August 1954, considered the work of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs during its eighth session and approved without practically any change the Commission's proposals.
The Commission considers it of the utmost importance that governments strictly observe the provisions of the existing international treaties on narcotics and their implementation on the national level by necessary legislative and administrative measures. For this reason, it spent a considerable part of the session studying the annual reports furnished by governments on the working of the international narcotic treaties in their territories as well as the laws and regulations promulgated to give them effect and the reports of important cases of illicit traffic reported to the United Nations.
The Commission was informed by the Secretariat that eighty-four countries participate at present in the international control of narcotic drugs. It was also informed that the flow of annual reports and laws and regulations communicated to the Secretary-General was satisfactory.
The Commission took certain measures to adjust to the present conditions the form of annual reports which governments have to use as guidance when sending their reports to the Secretary-General.
On the Commission's recommendation, the Economic and Social Council called upon governments to ensure close adherence and strict compliance with the provisions of the Conventions of 1925 and 1931 relating to the control of production, manufacture, trade and distribution, and in particular to carry out promptly and fully their obligations as regards the furnishing of reports, statistics, estimates and other data to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body.
With regard to the report of the Permanent Central Opium Board for 1953, the Council took note with satisfaction of this report and recommended, as asked by the Commission, that governments of opium-producing countries indicate how they calculate the amount of their production, exports and stocks as regards the establishment of morphine content and, if possible, water content.
As for the Estimated World Requirements of Narcotic Drugs in 1954 published by the Drug Supervisory Body, the Commission was impressed by the substantial overestimates made by governments of their needs in narcotic drugs. Thus, in 1952 these overestimates for the world amounted to twenty-five per cent for morphine, twenty-seven per cent for codeine, fifty-four per cent for cocaine and forty-nine per cent for pethidine. The Commission proposed and the Council recommended that governments make sufficient but not excessive estimates, and to accompany them by explanations of the methods employed to calculate the quantities involved.
The Commission and the Council noted with appreciation the work undertaken by the World Health Organization in selecting international non-proprietary names for narcotic drugs as well as for other drugs. They also expressed the view that, for the purpose of ensuring effective narcotics control, it was highly desirable that the existing complicated and slow procedure for the establishment of such names for newly developed narcotics should be simplified and speeded up as much as possible.
A new procedure for studying illicit traffic was tried by appointing a Committee on Seizure, consisting of the representatives of Canada, Egypt, Greece, India, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Committee was entrusted with the task of making a preliminary report on the documents on illicit traffic which the Commission had before it and of formulating recommendations as to how best the Commission could handle this subject.
As far as illicit traffic in heroin is concerned, the Commission concentrated its attention on the situation in Italy and the Far East. The Italian observer at the Commission explained the measures taken in his country to prevent in the future illicit traffic; in this connexion, the Italian Senate had approved a bill which was before the Chamber of Deputies providing for very severe penalties for illicit manufacture of, and traffickers in, narcotic drugs.
The United States representative pointed out that the heroin seized in many of the cases reported by governments could be traced to the Ear East and that most of the heroin entering the western United States came from the Chinese mainland. This statement was strongly opposed by the USSR and Polish representatives. During the discussions on illicit traffic, the Commission had the benefit of the co-operation of the observers of the International Criminal Police Commission.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs noted that there was a high level of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs which seemed to be increasing. The Economic and Social Council invited, therefore, as proposed by the Commission, governments to co-ordinate their efforts in this sphere, and in doing so to use all existing means and to draw their attention in this connexion to the work of the International Criminal Police Commission.
The Commission was concerned by the possibilities of a growing illicit market in synthetic narcotic drugs. In this connexion it noted that, although they were introduced only in the recent past, there was already evidence of abuse of synthetic drugs and indication of an illicit traffic which may increase to serious proportions. It also pointed out the difficulty of controlling the raw materials used in the manufacture of synthetic narcotic drugs. The Commission decided to reconsider the problem at its next session in the light of the progress made in the studies at present being pursued by the Secretariats of the World Health Organization and of the United Nations in this field.
The Commission, like its predecessor the League of Nations Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and other dangerous drugs, has been aware of the danger of diversion of acetic anhydride for the illicit manufacture of diacetylmorphine (heroin).After discussing the question in closed session, the Commission concluded that, since this substance is widely employed in many countries in a number of industrial operations, it would not be feasible for such countries to subject acetic anhydride to the type of control measures which are applied to narcotic drugs. It did, however, draw the attention of governments to the danger of diversion of acetic anhydride for illicit purposes and suggested that they bear in mind the possibility of action by way of control or surveillance appropriate to the risks involved and the particular circumstances in their countries.
It has been stressed many times that the setting up of an internationally recognized method to establish the origin of opium was of the greatest importance in cornbating illicit traffic. For several years, United Nations chemists, in co-operation with scientists in several countries, have been conducting experiments in this field. The Commission reviewed the whole subject, basing this review to a considerable extent on the report of a Committee of Chemical Experts appointed by the Secretary-General in accordance with a previous Economic and Social Council resolution. In performing this task, the Commission was fortunate in hearing the comments of several participants in the research program, Dr. Liang, Dr. Panopoulos and Dr. Farmilo, members of the Chinese, Greek and Canadian delegations to the Commission respectively.
The Commission recommended and the Council adopted a resolution (i) reaffirming the importance that is attached to the programme of opium research; (ii) expressing its satisfaction with the work done thus far; (iii)calling for further research; (iv) requesting governments to furnish samples of opium licitly and illicitly cultivated within their countries, as well as important samples of opium seizures from the international illicit traffic; (v) instructing the Secretary-General to request these samples from governments and further to develop the Secretariat's opium research deferring all other laboratory work except that connected with determining origin.
Both the Commission and the Council considered that it would be very useful to set up a United Nations narcotics laboratory and the Council referred to the General Assembly, for consideration in connexion with its review of the Secretary-General's reorganization of the United Nations Secretariat proposals, the question of the establishment of such a narcotics laboratory. The Council requested the Secretary-General to provide the General Assembly with all information relating to the establishment of the laboratory, including comparative costs and advantages of locating it in New York or Geneva.
The Council at its sixteenth session had requested the Commission to draw up a model code and commentary for the application of the Protocol. The Commission chose Charles Vaille, representative of France, as rapporteur to prepare a draft for consideration at the Commission's tenth session. This he will do after consultation with the Permanent Central Opium Board, the Drug Supervisory Body and the Secretariat.
Article 6 of the 1953 Protocol provided that the Parties shall not permit the import and export of opium other than opium produced in seven countries listed in the Protocol. But no provision in the Protocol prevents a country from producing opium for its own consumption. Some members of the Commission expressed concern about reports that production was being contemplated in certain countries other than the seven listed in the protocol authorizing the cultivation of opium. The Commission expressed the fear that, if production of opium was now begun in countries which had not in recent years engaged in such production, the existing over-production would be seriously aggravated.
As requested by the Commission, the Council urged the governments of all countries in which there has been no production of opium in recent years to prohibit such production in the future.
DRAFT SINGLE CONVENTION
The Commission continued the discussion of the draft Single Convention and considered sections dealing with internal trade, possession of drugs, measures of supervision, penal provisions, cure of the drug habit and some sections relating to general provisions. With respect to penal provisions, the Commission adopted, with a few amendments, a United Kingdom proposal. Experience has shown in the field of narcotic drugs as well as in other fields of co-operation against international crime that there are great difficulties in establishing universally applicable rules of penal law. Only nineteen States became parties to the 1936 Convention which requires States to apply certain rules of penal law intended to ensure prosecution and punishment of offenses committed abroad, as compared with forty-three parties to the 1948 Protocol or seventy States which became parties to the 1931 Convention. The Commission hoped that the text it had adopted would be more generally acceptable than the 1936 Convention. The Council called upon the Commission to give priority at its next session to the elaboration of the Single Convention.
In a general discussion on drug addiction, the Commission agreed on the importance of maintaining this topic on its agenda and of discussing it at the international as well as national levels. It was pointed out that drug addiction must also be approached from a subjective or "cause and treatment" point of view in addition to the historic "preventive or control" approach. Many delegations were agreed that the most important part of treatment was that which followed clinical withdrawal of the drug, i.e., the psychotherapeutic and rehabilitative stages.
Some representatives stated that in their view unsatisfactory social conditions were mainly responsible for the social evil of addiction and that, by remedying such conditions in their own countries, addiction had almost totally disappeared. Other members of the Commission felt, however, that not enough was known of the causes and extent of drug addiction in the world today and that further surveys were needed. They also thought that the knowledge made available to the United Nations would have an enhanced value if it could be presented on a comparable basis. The Commission believed that, in view of its present knowledge, studies must be made along empirical lines.
The Council decided, as recommended by the Commission, to call the attention of the governments concerned to the necessity of having, as soon as possible, in accordance with domestic law and public policy, systematic arrangements for the effective control and the registration of addicts by health authorities. It stressed the importance of governments considering the setting up of means for the treatment, care and rehabilitation of drug addicts, on a planned and compulsory basis, in properly conducted institutions. It also requested the Secretary-General to continue his studies and to express ppreciation to the World Health Organization for the work carried out by this Organization in this field. used in the manufacture of synthetic narcotics or of prohibiting their manufacture.
The Commission considered the problem of diacetylmorphine (heroin) in the light of a resolution by the Sixth World Health Assembly recommending prohibition of the manufacture and importation of that substance. It noted that, according to a survey made by WHO, fifty-six States had declared themselves in favor of dispensability of diacetylmorphine while only seven States had expressed opposite views.
Most members were in agreement that some form of international action aimed at prohibiting this dangerous drug should be taken.
As to the type of action which should be taken, the Commission decided not to recommend the conclusion of an interim agreement, but to include suitable provisions in the proposed Single Convention. In the meantime, the Council urged all governments to prohibit the manufacture, import and export of diacetylmorphine and its salts, preparations, and preparations of its salts, except for such small amounts as may be necessary for scientific purposes only.
The Commission held a general debate on the various problems arising out of the continual introduction into the field of medicine of new synthetic narcotic drugs. It noted with satisfaction that as of January 1, 1954, forty-three States had become parties to the Protocol signed at Paris on November 19, 1948, bringing under international control drugs outside the scope of the Convention of July 13, 1931, for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs. This Protocol is specially aimed to bring under international control the ever increasing number of new synthetic narcotic drugs.
Upon the Commission's recommendation, the Council adopted a resolution which: (i) called upon all States not parties to the 1948 Protocol to become parties in accordance with article 5 of that Protocol; (ii) called the attention of all governments to the necessity for strict control over the possession, manufacture, import and export of, trade in, and use of synthetic narcotics; (iii) invited all governments to consider the possibility of carrying out a systematic campaign among members of the medical profession to alert them to the danger of addiction inherent in the use of synthetic narcotics and to the necessity of exercising great care in prescribing such drugs; (iv) recommended that all governments submit provisionally, pending a decision by WHO, each drug notified to the Secretary-General under Article 1 of the 1948 Protocol to the narcotics regime and, in particular, to the import and export controls provided for by chapter V of the 1925 Convention; and (v) invited governments to study the desirability of exercising the requisite supervision over certain intermediary products, used in the manufacture of synthetic narcotics or of prohibiting their manufacture.
There was no agreement in the Commission on the question whether synthetic drugs should be totally prohibited or their number limited except, of course, in regard to those drugs which had particularly powerful addiction-producing properties and no distinct therapeutic advantages over other less dangerous drugs. These, it was agreed, should be banned. In pursuance of this idea, the Economic and Social Council urged governments to prohibit the manufacture, import and export of keto-bemidone, its salts, preparations and preparations of its salts. Ketobemidone, it was agreed, was a very dangerous addiction-producing synthetic drug.
The Commission noted the opinion expressed by the Expert Committee on drugs liable to produce addiction of the World Health Organization that "there is no justification for the medical use of cannabis preparations" and that these preparations "are practically obsolete". The Economic and Social Council, as asked by the Commission, recommended that governments of countries in which such preparations were still being used for medical purposes explore the possibility of discontinuing their use, with a view to discontinuing such use as rapidly as possible.
The Commission approved a series of comparative studies on the cannabis situation in different regions of the world. The representative of WHO stated that his organization hoped to finish a study on the physical and mental effects of the use of cannabis in time for the Commission's session in 1955.
The Commission expressed concern about the steadily increasing illicit traffic in the parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L containing resin, in many different regions of the world. The plant Cannabis sativa is, however, widely cultivated in many parts of the world for industrial purposes, i.e., for production of fibre and seed, and the Commission had apprehension that there was a danger of such industrial cultivation becoming in some countries a source of illicit traffic. The Council, therefore, as requested by the Commission, invited the governments concerned to furnish such information to the Secretariat of the Food and Agriculture Organization as may be required to carry out a study on the possibility of replacing Cannabis sativa L by a variety of the same plant or by other plants serving similar industrial purposes, but not containing harmful resin, and to FAO in consultation with the United Nations Secretariat, to prepare this study.
In the view of the Commission, decisive progress was made during its ninth session in connexion with this question. For the first time the representatives of all the countries mainly concerned - all of which took part in the Commission's consideration of the matter either as members (Peru) or as observers (Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia) - agreed that the habit of coca-leaf chewing constitutes a form drug addiction and his harmful. The Commission itself unanimously considered that coca-leaf chewing was a drug addiction. It shared the view of these representatives that many difficulties were inherent in the abolition of the chewing, to which large numbers of the aboriginal population were addicted, and that a cautious and gradual approach was required to find a solution of the problem. The Peruvian representative made a detailed statement on the problem of the coca-leaf chewing and in particular the measures that the Government of Peru had taken already to solve it - not only administrative measures but also intensive health and educational programmes. He noted that quick results could not be expected and that it would be necessary to request technical assistance from the United Nations and the specialized agencies. The Commission welcomed his statement. As proposed by the Commission, the Council expressed its satisfaction at the policy adopted by the governments concerned, and particularly by that of Peru, regarding the progressive abolition of this habit.
It further recommended that the technical assistance services of the United Nations and the specialized agencies give due consideration to any requests which the countries concerned may make for assistance in developing appropriate administrative or social measures for the gradual suppression of the habit or other remedial measures including requests for various experiments which might be necessary.
The Council finally recommended that the governments concerned: (i) limit gradually and as quickly as practicable the cultivation and the export of coca leaf to medical, scientific and other legitimate purposes ; (ii) continue their efforts to abolish progressively the habit of coca-leaf chewing in their respective countries ; (iii) limit progressively the importation of coca leaf for the purpose of chewing ; and (iv) continue their programmes of health education, and in any case where such programmes do not yet exist, to initiate them, for the purpose of making known to the populations affected by the habit the dangers of said habit, of preventing its extension and of facilitating the efficacy of the measures adopted or about to be adopted.