Opium control in Iran - a new regime

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Opium control in Iran - a new regime

Details

Author: A. H. Radji
Pages: 1 to 2
Creation Date: 1959/01/01

Opium control in Iran - a new regime

Dr. A. H. Radji Minister of Health, Government of Iran

The three years' tenure of office of the. board constituted to supervise the struggle against opium addiction in Iran under the-1955 law * expired at the end of October 1958. in November 1958, therefore, a change in the method of administration. of the anti-opium campaign was introduced. This change, which is intended to concentrated the administrative effort required to continue the struggle, and at the same time to widen its scope, comprises (1) the placing of the administration under the control of a director-general; (2) the extension of his sphere of, work to all narcotics, and (3) the strengthening of the 1955 law where the experience of the last three years has shown that weakness exists. A great deal has been learned in these three years as to the most effective means of carrying the campaign against the drug evil; these lessons are now being applied. In addition, the course of action itself has taken a different turn and broadened in certain aspects. It is recognized that change and a. shifting of emphasis within the main pattern were inevitable; the new administration is designed to be at once more effective and more flexible than the old. Thus, while there is still a problem of internal production of illicit opium, the main emphasis is now on the illegal importation into Iran of opium and other drugs to fill the gap left in the illicit market by prohibition in Iran.

Considerable success has already been archieved, but it would be unrealistic not to face the fact that much remains to be done. It is estimated that both consumption of opium and the number of opium have been reduced by about two-thirds in the past three years. So there remains a grave problem. Moreover, the relative scarcity of opium, and its high price (forty times the price in 1956, or about ?5 to ?6 an ounce of pure opium) have introduced three fresh problems - the use heroin and cocaine as substitutes for opium by the wealthier users; the continued use of opium by the poorer classes, but of adulterated opium; and the smuggling of supplies into Iran, which was once a source of supply both to the legal and to the illicit market outside Iran.

The principles implicit in the attack which Iran has made on this traffic are not changed. The problem is a grave one of public health, with ramifications in the fields of economics, agriculture and finance. There is also an enforcement problem of the first magnitude which causes the Government a series of administrative difficulties. In an address to the Iran America Society a few months ago I described opium as a health problem which in Iran was on a level with tuberculosis and malaria. The number of users of opium and other drugs is not known accurately. It is certain that the number is high, and that unless it is reduced, and unless the reduction is continued till the desire to use narcotic drugs virtually disappears in Iran, the Government and the Ministry of Health will be faced with a situation of the utmost seriousness. While it is true that to a user of opium, when he is under the influence of die drug, life appears happier, his surroundings more agreeable, and he himself better able to bear the little annoyances of life, there is another side to the picture. Users of drugs develop loss of vitality, loss of weight, and susceptibility to other illnesses and toxic conditions. In time, their mental habits are affected - they suffer from defective memory, listlessness, inertia, and lack of will. Their sense of responsibility is diminished - and they become - physically and mentally degenerate. Iran can neither prosper not develop while suffering from such a wasting disease. A cure must be found.

See Bulltin on Narcotics, Volume VIII, No. 3, and Volume X, No. 2.

To cure those who can be cured and to remove by imprisonment those who cannot be cured; to stop the supply of drugs from external and from internal sources, to fill the place of the poppy crop in the agricultural economy of the country; to create a social climate in which the use of drugs is reprehended - these are the continuing tasks with which the new administration is faced. Not only must the administration display drive and a high degree of technical competence; it must also co-ordinate the work of a number of government agencies which are concerned with this work (police, gendarmerie, customs officers and the Army ot the side of enforcement; and the agricultural, health and finance agencies in their respective spheres). The administration must handle foreign relations, both with neighbouring countries and though the United Nations. It was in order to obtain the necessary combination of drive in the attackon these problems, and of co-ordination in the direction and handling of the attack, that the decision was taken to concentrate authority in the new post of Director-General of Narcotics attached to the Ministry of Health. A detailed plan of action has been worked out which comprises a strengthening both of the law and of the administration.

An amending law to the 1955 law awaits enactment by Parliament. It is designed to strengthen the old law in many necessary particulars. All narcotics are brought under one law, and gaps in that law are closed. Heavier penalties for trafficking in drugs are introduced. In the old law, the penalty (apart from fines) for an offence is generally imprisonment for six months to one year for a first offence, rising to two years, three years and five years for second and subsequent offences. The proposed new level is two to three years' imprisonment for a first offence, rising to five years as a maximum for a second offence and ten years for a third offence. The death penalty is to be imposed for persistent large-scale smuggling, cultivation of the opium pappy and manufacture of heroin. Administration is to be tightened by a clearer statement of the responsibilities of officials, combined with heavy penalties for officials who are found guilty of being involved in the narcotics traffic. Members of the public who obstruct official action will likewise be punished. There is a provision for the setting-up of special courts for trying narcotics cases, in addition to the court which has already produced excellent results in the speedy and effective trying of cases in Teheran. Any premises in which opium smoking is discovered may be sealed - a measure which is directed against shops and restaurants and also against private premises. The financial arrangements for the suppression of the illicit traffic are to be improved. The statutory authority which gives effect to these reforms will be exercised by the Director-General of Narcotics.

It is the main function of the new administration, therefore, to give renewed life to the battle against the abuse of drugs which Iran has waged for the past three years. Apart from the setting-up of the administration itself, steps have already been taken with this end in view. A fifty-bed hospital has been opened for the care of addicts in Teheran, and beds are being reserved elsewhere for this purpose in government hospitals. Enforcement of the law is being strengthened by the use of co-ordinating committees both at headquarters in Teheran and in the main stations outside Teheran. Good progress in training senior and junior officers for anti-narcotics work is being made by the police school started through the good offices of "Point Four". The return of a scientist after study, under United Nations auspices, of techniques of opium research is intended to initiate improved laboratory work on drugs in the Iranian Health Ministry Laboratory. Advanced training for the Director-General has been planned with the aid of the United Nations Technical Assistance Programme and of the Government of the United Kingdom, and it is hoped that more laboratory training will become available. The Customs Frontier Guards, a well-organized and well-equipped military type of force which came into being some months ago, plays an important part in guarding Iran's lengthy and difficult frontiers and the ports and airports. Contact on narcotics problems is being maintained with neighbouring countries and with the United Nations. Measures of economic improvement are to be accelerated. Finally, the administration itself is now being streamlined, new blood being introduced, new methods of working being tried, and full emphasis being laid on speed and efficiency of working. The principle of responsibility has been affirmed by an Imperial Order that where cultivation of the opium poppy is discovered or smoking dens are found, the head of the department of government which is at fault, police, gendarmerie, customs guards, or even the provincial governor-general may be dismissed.

Iran is doing as much as is possible by her own efforts. In the past three years help has been given by the United Nations and United States overseas missions, and this help continues. For the future, it is desirable to look at the narcotics problem in this area from a wider and a more international point of view. Iran has taken a decisive step, the prohibition of opium production, and has made that prohibition effective. There is now no Iranian opium in the international traffic; internal consumption has been drastically reduced and will soon be down to the hard core which it is almost impossible entirely to remove.

Iran would be only too pleased if no illicit opium or drugs from any other country were found in its territory. The initiative taken by the Afghan Government in prohibiting the cultivation of the opium poppy has had useful results, and the success of this prohibition is most important to Iran. The setting-up of a narcotics board in Pakistan is also welcomed. It is indeed vital to Iran not merely that all outside sources of supply of contraband drugs be eliminated, but also that, during the period necessary before such a process can be initiated and made successful, all countries which might be a source of supply of opium, heroin or cocaine, or in which there is a traffic in narcotic drugs, should assist Iran by providing information which may be useful to the new Iranian administration, and by effective police action to check traffic to Iran where such a traffic exists. Iran is fighting her own battle against narcotics. It is a battle which affects the traffic in illicit drugs all over the world, from a practical point of view, as well as by setting an example. A matter of world-wide interest is at stake. Iran believes that it is the declared policy of international agencies (as well as in their interest) to help her in this battle. Iran wishes them to re-assert and justify this policy and to continue to assist her practically.