Twelfth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs


The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in New York from 29 April to 31 May 1957. It elected as officers:


Pages: 58 to 60
Creation Date: 1957/01/01

Twelfth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in New York from 29 April to 31 May 1957. It elected as officers:

Mr. H. J. Anslinger (USA), Chairman

Mr. D. Nikolic (Yugoslavia), Vice-Chairman

Mr. A. G. Ardalan (Iran), Rapporteur

The main items on the agenda were the following: the implementation of the narcotics treaties and international control; the illicit traffic; drug addiction; opium and opiates, including the request of Afghanistan to be recognized as a state producing opium for export, scientific research on opium, and the question of diacetylmorphine; the question of the coca leaf; the question of cannabis; the question of synthetic narcotic drugs; the problem caused by barbiturates, tranquillizers and khat; the proposed United Nations Middle East Anti-Narcotics Bureau; and the question of technical assistance for narcotics control. The proposed Single Convention was dealt with at length, the Commission devoting an extra week to that item in accordance with the resolution taken by the Economic and Social Council at its twenty-second session.

The Commission decided to defer to its thirteenth session consideration of the proposed United Nations Middle East Anti-Narcotics Bureau.

In accordance with the elections carried out by the Council at its twenty-first session, the membership of the Commission now consists of the following governments: Austria, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Hungary, India, Iran, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom, United States and Yugoslavia.

Representatives of Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Denmark, Ethiopia, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand and Viet Nam participated as observers in the consideration of items of particular concern to them. Representatives of the World Health Organization, the Permanent Central Opium Board, the Drug Supervisory Body, the Permanent Anti-Narcotics Bureau of the League of Arab States; and of the International Criminal Police Organization, the International Conference of Catholic Charities, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, the Pan-Pacific South-East Asia Women's Association, the World Alliance of Young Men's Christian Association, the World Women's Christian Temperance Union and the International Council of Nurses (R) also took part in the work of the Commission.

The Commission took a number of decisions, the principal of which are mentioned below, and recommended resolutions to the Economic and Social Council dealing with scientific research on opium, the question of khat and technical assistance for narcotics control which are noted under the next heading (twenty-fourth session of the Economic and Social Council).

Implementation of Treaties and International Control

The Commission, after studying the "Annual Summary Tabulation - Changes in the Scope of Narcotics Control in 1956 ", considered that national legislation or adminis trative measures promulgated during the year reflected a satisfactory awareness on the part of governments to carry out their obligations in this respect.

The Commission observed that two new synthetic drugs had been placed under international control during the year - namely, α-l-methyl-3-ethyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxy-piperidine and 1-[2-(p-aminophenyl)-ethyl]-4-phenylpiperi-dine-4-caboxylic acid ethyl ester and their respective salts. Upon being informed of the dangerous addiction properties of another new synthetic drug, R.875, the Commission took action, pursuant to article 2 of the 1948 Protocol, to place this drug provisionally under the control of the stricter regime laid down in the 1931 Convention, pending a final decision in this respect.

Illicit Traffic

In accordance with the established procedure, the Committee on Illicit Traffic met three working days in advance of the regular session and considered in closed meetings all the available information relating to the illicit traffic. The Committee's report to the Commission (document E/CN.7/L.145) was adopted, with minor amendments, by the latter as part of its own report to the Council.

The Commission drew attention to the basic features of the illicit traffic--namely, that it was supplied almost entirely from illicit sources, was well organized, and had widespread international ramifications. In this connexion, it adopted a resolution urging closer international co-operation against the activities of traffickers and stricter control by the national authorities concerned.

Opium and opiates were still by far the most important drugs involved in the internal and international traffic; a number of clandestine factories for the manufacture of opiates had been discovered during the year. The traffic in cannabis was observed to be increasing all over the world. The traffic in cocaine, though at a low level, was still persistent. Seizures of synthetic drugs in small amounts continued to be reported.

Finally, the Commission reviewed the performance of obligations relating to the exchange of information on illcit traffic pursuant to treaty obligations. It appealed to all governments for strict fulfilment of these obligations in view of the world-wide character of the illicit traffic and evidences of an increase in activities of traffickers.

Drug Addiction

The Commission noted that, despite ample evidence of a growing awareness of the addiction problem and of increasing efforts to combat it, some countries had reported more addicts for 1955 than for 1954. Close estimates of the extent of addiction, however, could not be made owing to the varying degrees in which addiction was known to the authorities in various countries.

The Commission considered in particular the discovery, registration and control of addicts, their treatment and rehabilitation and preventive measures that might be taken to reduce their number. These aspects of the problem were examined mainly in the light of the analytical study on drug addiction (E/CN.7/318) prepared by the Secretary-General. In connexion witht the treatment of addicts, a report of the World Health Organization's Study Group on Treatment and Care of Drug Addicts (E/CN.7/320) was also considered.

The Commission learned from several of its members and observers that their countries were expanding facilities for the treatment of addicts. The Commission was generally in agreement with the treatment measures proposed by the World Health Organization's Study Group and expressed the hope that the work on this subject would be continued. It further requested the Secretariat to obtain additional information on addiction from certain countries.

The Proposed Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

In accordance with Council resolution 246D(IX), the Commission on Narcotic Drugs proceeded with its work of codifying the treaty law on narcotic drugs. It used as a working paper the second draft of the proposed Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (E/CN.7/AC.3/7 and Corr.1), which had been prepared in accordance with decisions taken by the Commission from 1950 to 1955. It had also before it an analytical compilation of comments from twenty-four governments (E/CN.7/AC.3/8 and Add. 1 and 2).

The Commission prepared a revised and considerably simplified and .shortened text for twenty-four out of sixty articles of the second draft. It arranged for differing viewpoints to be reproduced in footnotes to the text.

In this process, it settled several important questions. In particular, decisions taken by the Commission under the new text to prohibit particularly dangerous narcotics without compensating therapeutic advantages would be legally binding upon parties to the Convention. In general, however, in order to expedite its work, the Commission avoided reconsidering questions of principle which it had decided at earlier sessions.

The Question of Diacetylmorphine

The Commission reviewed the present situation in connexion with the implementation of the resolutions of the Economic and Social Council (548 G (XVIII)), the Sixth World Health Assembly and the Commission at its tenth session, recommending in varying degrees the prohibition of diacetylmorphine. Document E/CN.7/317/Add.1, a part of the Report of the Division, giving all the available information on the subject, was examined. The Commission noted that out of eighty-seven countries considered, which included all the Members of the United Nations, sixty-three had either prohibited diacetylmorphine or had adopted a policy of prohibition, and that nineteen had not yet done so either in practice or by a declaration of policy, there being no available information on the remaining ones. The Commission decided to request the Secretariat to prepare an annual supplementary return on this matter.

Scientific Research on Opium

With regard to the operation of the United Nations laboratory in Geneva, the opium samples for research and distribution to collaborating chemists assembled prior to the establishment of the laboratory had been received in Geneva from New York, as well as numerous further samples transmitted by governments. Alkaloidal and related analyses were being made; work on developing methods of deter- mining constituents of opium by chromatography, electro-chromatography and electrophoresis was being carried out, and spectrophotometric and flame photometric analyses to determine major elements in opium had been commenced.

The programme of international collaboration had continued. A total number of 343 authenticated samples had been received from fourteen countries, and twenty-four other samples from six countries. Several technical papers by scientists of several countries dealing with research on opium were issued. Opium samples for study had been sent to scientists in several countries.

The Commission expressed satisfaction at the inauguration of a fellowship programme in this field with the arrival of a student from Singapore to work in Canada in November 1956.

The Comission took notice of the forthcoming meeting of experts pursuant to Council resolution 626 (XXII). It adopted a resolution giving priority to work on authenticated samples in the laboratory.

The Question of the Coca Leaf

The representative of Peru informed the Commission of the efforts being made by his country directed towards limiting the production of the coca leaf, reducing the number of chewers, controlling exports of the leaf, and strengthening the administrative machinery in these respects. The production of the coca leaf had somewhat decreased in 1956, and no new licences for the cultivation had been issued in that year. The problem of the chewing of the coca leaf was complicated by the fact that most of the addicts lived in poor agricultural areas where malnutrition and alcoholism raised additional problems. There were approximately 1? million habitual chewers who, on an average, consumed 10 kg of coca leaves each per year. The Peruvian Government had strengthened the legislation governing exports of the coca leaf, and was contemplating an increase in the export duty on them. That government regretted that importing countries did not import more crude cocaine instead of coca leaves, as had been suggested in an earlier resolution of the Commission. The Commission discussed whether the export of crude cocaine manufactured in Peru rather than of coca leaves would, in fact, contribute to the closer control of that drug internationally.

Dr. J. Haaker, the Minister of Public Health of Peru, addressed the Commission on the question of the coca leaf and the prospects for ameliorating the situation.

The Commission observed that the Government of Chile had recently drafted legislation providing for the prohibition of coca leaf chewing, and that the Government of Argentina had declared such chewing to be harmful, and had taken action in 1956 regarding the import of the coca leaf.

The Question of Cannabis

In considering the problems arising out of the use of the drug cannabis, known locally by a great variety of names such as marihuana, kif, ganja, bhang, etc., the Commission was informed of recent progress in India towards the reduction and elimination of the medical and non-medical use of cannabis, and of the banning of cultivation, consumption and use of cannabis in Morocco. The situation in Egypt was also described to the Commission. In that country, the cultivation and consumption of cannabis are prohibited; there is, however, an illicit consumption, hashish being smoked with tobacco, drunk as an infusion in tea or coffee, and eaten in chocolate or pastries. The question of the breeding of a narcotic-free strain of the cannabis (Indian hemp) plant, the difficulties caused by the fact that the plant grows wild, and the complete lack of therapeutic value of cannabis drugs were also considered.

The Commission adopted a resolution which, inter alia, requests all governments to abolish the legal consumption of cannabis except for medical and scientific purposes (cannabis is still used in the indigenous Ayurvedic, Unani and Tibbi systems of medicine), and invites governments to promote research in order to find out what is the active principle, or what are the active principles of cannabis, their exact nature never having been fully established.

The Question of Synthetic Narcotic Drugs

The Commission again discussed the problems arising from the continuing increase of the number of substances under international control and in general medical use. It considered the fourth and last of the studies on morphine-like substances, prepared under Council resolution 505 C (XVI) by the World Health Organization in conjunction with the United Nations Secretariat, which dealt with the relative addictive properties and therapeutic advantages of natural and synthetic narcotics respectively. It was informed that at least one strong analgesic free of addiction liability had been developed, although its use in medicine was limited by its side-effects.

In view of the importance of this and related questions and the steady increase of available data, the Commission recommended that a research programme in this field should be carried out over a number of years, with the World Health Organization, the Permanent Central Opium Board and Drug Supervisory Body, and the International Criminal Police Organization collaborating in the studies falling within their respective provinces.

The Commission also invited governments to extend to synthetic narcotics the measures for tightening control over their manufacture and distribution which it had recommended at its eleventh session in respect of natural narcotics.

The Question of Ketobemidone

Considering a request by the Government of Switzerland, the Commission decided not to change its position on ketobemidone. It found that there was no reason to revise the conclusion that ketobemidone had "particularly dangerous properties ", which had led the Council at its eighteenth session to recommend, on the initiative of the Commission, the prohibition of the manufacture, import and export of ketobemidone, its salts and preparations and preparations of its salts.

Use of Non-proprietary Names for Narcotic Drugs under International Control

The Commission again considered the possibility of shortening the procedure for giving narcotic drugs international non-proprietary names. The matter has assumed importance because of the rapid increase in the number of drugs being manufactured, the complexity of the names, and the large number of trade names for certain drugs.

The Commission examined the present procedure and requested further study in co-operation with the World Health Organization of the possibility of simplifying it and the drafting of relevant provisions for inclusion in the Single Convention.

The Question of Barbiturates and Tranquillizers

The Commission considered the difficulties that had arisen in various countries as the result of the increasing use of barbiturates and tranquillizers, and the action that could be taken at the international level in this regard. It received information from several of its members and observers as regards regulations at present in force in their countries, and decided to recommend to governments to take the appropriate legislative and administrative measures of control to prevent the abuse of barbiturates and to keep a careful watch for any abuse of the substances described as" tranquillizers" or "ataraxic" drugs, with a view to taking any necessary measures of control.