Progress in Iran:

Abstract

To appreciate the current law on narcotics in Iran and the process of thought and action that has led up to it, it is essential to understand something of the background of the problems with which the legislation deals. Law cannot be treated in isolation: it is the expression of a national point of view of a social structure and a climate of opinion, besides being the basis of action within the national administrative structure, in order to deal with a set of problems. Narcotics problems are general, in that they have a similarity of outline in all countries that have attained a certain level of social development. They are particular in that they must be dealt with within the boundaries of a nation in accordance with that nation's own genius and in accordance with that nation's own views as to the correct approach to its problems. In the field of narcotics, much that is general has been laid down by the League of Nations and the United Nations in the various international treaties for which they have been responsible. Iran has accepted the general outline of the proposed Single Convention on Narcotics, and has incorporated many of the provisions contained therein in the law on narcotics that was passed by the Iranian Parliament in June 1959. But Iran has had to judge how far the country could go in the general directions indicated, and what special conditions had to be met by special terms in the legislation. Even language presents a difficulty: Farsi is a language that goes back to and derives from a history of culture, thought and institutions wholly different from those which are embodied in most western thinking on problems of legal drafting and form - to say nothing of the substance of the laws.

Details

Author: A. E. Wright,
Pages: 1 to 4
Creation Date: 1960/01/01

Progress in Iran:

The struggle against the evil of narcotics up to 1960

C.M.G., O.B.E., F.R.S.A A. E. Wright,
Technical Assistance Expert in Iran

To appreciate the current law on narcotics in Iran and the process of thought and action that has led up to it, it is essential to understand something of the background of the problems with which the legislation deals. Law cannot be treated in isolation: it is the expression of a national point of view of a social structure and a climate of opinion, besides being the basis of action within the national administrative structure, in order to deal with a set of problems. Narcotics problems are general, in that they have a similarity of outline in all countries that have attained a certain level of social development. They are particular in that they must be dealt with within the boundaries of a nation in accordance with that nation's own genius and in accordance with that nation's own views as to the correct approach to its problems. In the field of narcotics, much that is general has been laid down by the League of Nations and the United Nations in the various international treaties for which they have been responsible. Iran has accepted the general outline of the proposed Single Convention on Narcotics, and has incorporated many of the provisions contained therein in the law on narcotics that was passed by the Iranian Parliament in June 1959. But Iran has had to judge how far the country could go in the general directions indicated, and what special conditions had to be met by special terms in the legislation. Even language presents a difficulty: Farsi is a language that goes back to and derives from a history of culture, thought and institutions wholly different from those which are embodied in most western thinking on problems of legal drafting and form - to say nothing of the substance of the laws.

In general, then, narcotics legislation has four stages. In the first, paradoxically enough, there is no legislative control over the production and use of narcotics in a country. There may be social pressures and customs; but there is at this early stage no legal enactment that seeks to control or regulate the production or use of narcotics. It is not even clearly realized what substances are narcotics. At the second stage, there is control for fiscal or trade purposes. It has been realized that certain substances are valuable and that the state can profit from their use: without in any way thinking whether trade in them is good or bad for the consumer, trade is fostered and taxes are levied on the substance or on the trade in it.

At a third stage, there is control for sociological purposes combined with or deriving from the control which has been established for the fiscal or trade purposes already mentioned. This type of control will be restrictive, and it normally uses fiscal means in order to be effective. The government concerned has been told or has realized that the substances with which it is dealing are dangerous to the community; or at least that their unrestricted consumption may have effects that are either not easily calculable or that are represented as being actually harmful. A country that has reached this stage is mature: its government has progressed from the stage at which it merely thinks in terms of revenue or profit, to that at which it thinks in terms of welfare. The view that high taxation as a restrictive measure can be an end in itself in this field has been widely held. Where the ultimate end of the government is restriction, the operation of the law of diminishing returns in respect of the tax yield is accepted as a natural consequence of the basic policy of the government. But the operation of this law and the feelings of a government which is suddenly faced with the reduction or the complete loss of a certain tax yield render this conception a hazardous one. Experience of taxation of tobacco and liquor, for instance, shows that an increase in tax rates may be followed immediately by a reduction in consumption; but after the consumer has accustomed himself to the shock of an increase in price he frequently goes back to his former rate of consumption, and the tax yield goes up. Narcotics control, therefore, at this stage of development usually consists in a combination of high taxation and statutory controls on production and distribution.

Thus, full national maturity in the sociological sphere accompanies and conditions a decision to legislate so as to prohibit the production and consumption of a narcotic substance that is accepted internationally as dangerous to the consumer. I am not referring to drugs that are accepted as necessary for medical purposes; I am referring to drugs that are regarded as dangerous by informed international opinion. Such a view, as an expression of a point of view, in theory, is a long way from the actual national outlawing of the drug or drugs by legislation and by enforcement that is reasonably effective. A country which takes the bold step of prohibiting a narcotic or narcotics is advanced in its sociological thinking, and it takes a calculated risk in the effects that may be expected from such a prohibition, when the prohibition is not internationally effective. Thus, to be effective in the country, the prohibition must be accompanied by an effective stoppage both of imports and local production. The medical and economic needs of the country must be calculated, sufficient drugs must be available for medical needs, and an alternative employment must be available for persons whose livelihood disappears due to the prohibition. It is axiomatic that a prohibition, to succeed, must have the support of public opinion.

It must be taken for granted that no enforcement will be 100% effective, and that, therefore, although a good enforcement system is an essential ingredient in a national prohibition, other means must be sought to make the prohibition as effective as possible. Apart from public opinion, which will destroy the prohibition in time if it is not generally favourable, there must be long-term planning in the medical and economic spheres; and there must be an attack on the basic causes of the tendency to use a drug or drugs which have led the national government to introduce a prohibition. While, therefore, immediate measures are essential, and while, in the early stages of the administration of a prohibition, there will be a natural emphasis on the enforcement of the law, if the measure is to have lasting effect the government must think in terms of basic causes and long-term plans.

When we apply these considerations to Iran, there is an indication of an important cause of the use of narcotics in Iran since the war in my article in the United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. IX, No. 2, where I gave poverty as the cause which must be eradicated if there is to be full success in the campaign against drugs. It follows that all measures which tend to raise the standard of living will work against the drug habit, in so far as that habit is endemic among the middle classes and the poorer people. Apart from the effects of poverty and the consequent lack of medical facilities, in Iran a tendency to abuse drugs generally in society was due to the social and economic strains which followed from the Second World War and the rapid modernization of the state. Medical measures are being taken and economic strains are being lightened, so far as the means of the country and of those agencies that are helping it will allow. In general, public opinion is in favour of the prohibition, and enforcement is strong. It will be seen that much of the work that is being done, a great deal of which implies recourse to legislation on land tenure and taxation, for instance, has little to do directly with the anti-narcotics legislation, which is the specific subject of this paper. But it must be understood that in Iran the ramifications ot the problem, which the country decided in 1955 could only be met by a prohibition policy, are such that a wide preliminary view is necessary, in order fully to appreciate the special laws on narcotics passed since the war.

The progress of legislation, again, must be judged by the progress of the problem. There is nothing static in this field. Strong enforcement of the 1955 law, which was revolutionary in concept, has reduced the use of opium against which this law was specifically directed, by three-quarters. But the distribution of the habit was so widespread that even such a reduction has left a considerable residue. And the rise in price of opium and the demand for narcotics has led to a recourse to heroin, and in a lesser degree to morphine and cocaine, which introduced a change that is both as dangerous as the old recourse to opium, and as difficult to deal with even from the limited point of view of law enforcement. While, therefore, the present is a useful time to sum up the progress that has been made in legislation in order to deal with the manifold problems which abuse of drugs implies in Iran, it is not suggested that the position is static, or that further legislative steps may not be needed in the future. Iran has reached a peak at the moment: the nettle has been grasped, the implications of the problem have been widely studied, and a step in legislation has been taken which will mark the height to which Iran has attained. But there are continuing problems and new problems, and there is little doubt that in the future further legislation will be attempted. At present, the process has gone as far as is needed and as far as can be expected.

Sociological legislation of the type embodied in the two Iranian laws of 1955 and 1959 (see Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. VIII, No. 3; vol. XI, No. 1; and vol. XII, No. 2) must derive from an advanced social consciousness in the society that imposes such laws on itself, and from an advanced view of the purposes of legisation in this field. A country may well view with apprehension the possible consequences of such laws and it may wonder whether or not it has the means to make them effective; but the basis of the conclusion that such legislation must be attempted and that the effort to make it effective must be made (whether alone or with outside help is not immediately relevant) represents in responsible circles in the country an appreciation of social issues which is the mark of an advanced social mentality. Parliamentary legislation on opium in Iran began with a ban on its non-medical use in 1910, not many years after the passing of the Constitution. In 1928 a government monopoly was instituted (following the visit of a League of Nations Commission of Enquiry in 1926, to which a further reference is made below). It was intended to follow up the institution of the monopoly with a complete ban on the cultivation of the opium poppy at the end of 10 years. In 1938, the cultivation of the opium poppy was duly forbidden, but not completely in 25 districts. In 1946, after the Second World War, a movement was set on foot to forbid the cultivation of the opium poppy completely, but the time was not ripe, and only a limitation of cultivation was approved. It is thus evident that Iran was aware of wider issues. The question before the League of Nations commission which visited Iran in 1926 was whether the production of opium could be restricted to medical requirements, with the corollary that the smoking of opium should be stopped. Thus the sociological issue was already being faced, together with the fiscal and economic problems. The report of the commission is a classic of its kind. The conclusion that was reached was that Iran could ban the smoking of opium and could restrict the production of opium to medical needs without damage to the economy of the country. It was possible to replace the opium poppy in the agricultural economy of Iran. Methods were suggested by which the impact of the restriction that was proposed could be minimized. In fact, as we have seen, the control over the production of opium that was envisaged in this period never succeeded. Many circumstances proved to be too much for the intentions of the governments of the time.

There was therefore a continuing crisis. The Second World War and the difficult times which followed the war brought the crises to a head. After the attempt to deal with it in 1946, it finally erupted in 1955, when the first law prohibiting opium was passed by Parliament. The opium habit was socially reprehended by an informed and vigorous minority, whose views were strongly represented by the Anti-Opium League. Its consequences upon the morale and upon the development of the country were being recognized. The issue which was now faced was not that which had been before the League of Nations commission 30 years before. It was that the health and morale of the nation were being undermined by the habit of smoking opium. The issue was now social rather than economic. The campaign of rehabilitation could not succeed, however, without legislation which would embody what was now felt to be the only possible solution to the problem. Regulation and restriction had been tried and had failed. The issue had to be faced, as it was vital for the continued life of Iran as a nation. The conclusion which was reached was that the only solution was to cut out the cancer - a prohibition of the growing of the opium poppy and of the use of opium in any form was essential. Parliament had to be convinced of the absolute necessity of legislation to this end, and a means had to be found of making it effective.

The placing of legislation on this issue before the Iranian Parliament in the autumn of 1955 was a test of the strength of the Parliament and its ability to grasp a basic sociological issue. Social and educated opinion were only partly indoctrinated against the opium habit. A good deal of money was made from it, and a strong administration would be needed to make the proposed prohibition effective. The work of the Anti-Opium League in printing pamphlets and in the use of other means of propaganda and education was forceful. The presentation of the draft law in Parliament lacked nothing of drama and vigour. Against the very strong measures that were proposed were the fact that regulation was the normally accepted method of dealing with the problem; prohibition had failed elsewhere; there would be a loss of income to the state; there would probably be a loss to agriculture; there was still not a unanimous condemnation of the habit of smoking opium. In favour were the realization of the difficult situation that faced the country; the psychological impact of the dramatic decision to propose a prohibition; the view that in Iran a prohibition could succeed if it was accepted generally as necessary, and if international opinion were mobilized in its favour; the view that the economic effects of such a prohibition on the agriculture of the country might have been exaggerated, and that in any case they could be overcome; and that, in general, social pressure could be built up against the habit to an impressive degree.

The law which was passed embodying the prohibition was reproduced in the Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. VIII, No. 3, in an article by Dr. Saleh, the Minister of Health at that time. It was a short Act, consisting of five articles and one note only. The regulations, which contained the detailed provisions both for penalties and for an administration, were passed later. A further reference to the administration of this law and to its effects is to be found in my article in the Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. IX, No. 2, already cited. There is thus no need to go into details in this paper. The law stated the prohibition and the duties of the Health Ministry and other ministries; most of the detailed effective legislation was in the regulations, a point to which we shall have to return.

A critique of this law will emerge from the considerations that led to the drafting of the new, expanded law of 1959. But the fact of criticism and the decision of the Government of Iran to remodel the law must not blind us either to the revolutionary nature of the law of 1955 or to its merits. In December 1957 I wrote of it: "This law is complete in conception and has so far served the drive against opium so well that it is proposed that any fresh legislation should be a continuation, amendment and sequel to the law of 1955; piecemeal legislation should in any case be avoided in dealing with so difficult and controversial a subject as opium. There should be no great difficulty in securing the passage of a new law which is the logical sequel and complement to one which has had so great a measure of success; which, whatever may be the faults in detail which have emerged from two years' administration of its provisions, was so well conceived as a complete view of the whole field which the drive against opium would have to cover. The law itself provides for a review of its provisions for an administrative organization early in 1959, a suitable time for a general revision. A point to be noted is the essential unity of the present law. I cannot too strongly emphasize the need for keeping this subject in proper focus: the main problems are health, sociological and economic problems; the proper ministry to deal with them is the Health Ministry. The law of 1955 was, in fact, so revolutionary in what it attempted to do, and it touched both the life of the people and the working of the administration in Iran at so many points that it was inevitable, under a consistent policy, that there should be a heart-searching after a suitable interval of time, and that a revision of the law should then be placed before Parliament without undue delay. There were special points in the anti-opium drive in Iran: the lack of a proper definition of addict; the lack of good statistics; the extent to which the opium habit was found not as true addiction but as a habitual use among the working population; the link of the habit with poverty, and, for these reasons, its sociological and medical importance; the need for education of the public and the need for a further study of law and administration in general, apart from the peculiar problems of the Iranian case, all of which led to the correct conclusion that after a limited period there should be a new law, based on accepted international principles and on a further study of Iran's own problems in the light of those principles.

Study of the law was being undertaken in the Ministry of Health, which had been the sponsoring ministry for the 1955 law, throughout the first three years of the operation of this law. Study was also undertaken by the United States overseas missions and by a United Nations mission. The Minister, now Dr. A. H. Radji, therefore had before him not only the fruits of the work of the Ministry, but also the results of study by two outside agencies, in deciding on the form and content of a new law, and of a revised administration.

Thus, it was proposed to widen the scope of the law to include all narcotics. It was necessary to improve the definition of and the punishment of offences and further clarify the position of government officers and public bodies that might be concerned with narcotics offences. It was desirable to introduce more orthodox financing, while agricultural measures were left to the Ministry of Agriculture, which has already drawn up a project for a new bill that would cover its work in this field in so far as legislation was needed. Naturally, the Health Ministry accepted the basic positions of the 1955 law, especially that the problem was one for the Ministry of Health, with the co-operation of other ministries, and with improved general co-ordination. A further proposal was considered, however, for a new approach that laid the greatest stress on enforcement, and purported to create a new department for this purpose under special regulations, and not under the control of the Ministry of Health. This proposal was supported, but was eventually not accepted. The Government stood by the principles of the 1955 law.

Lastly there was a proposal for a consolidation of the law on narcotics based on the views embodied in the draft Single Convention, of which the second and third drafts became available while the new legislation was under consideration. The Government did not attempt a consolidation - indeed, it is certain that the time is not yet ripe for such a step - but it did introduce a number of provisions in the law which was eventually passed by Parliament, which derive from United Nations thinking on narcotics problems. This law, enacted in June 1959, also embodied the use of the 1955 law as a starting point, the remodelling of the administration under one high officer of government, and the inclusion of all drugs under one legal system, for instance. Further points in the new law which are the product of serious thought and international study and consultation are the giving of statutory authority to the state import monopoly of drugs; the improved definition of offences, and the clearer statement and the more severe incidence of penalties; the improved provisions for the care of addicts, with special provisions for finance for this need; the setting up of an administration which not only has statutory authority, but also has improved powers to co-ordinate the work of the campaign under the control of the Minister of Health; and the grant of a rule-making power to the Minister in respect to the issue of lists of prohibited or restricted drugs. For a more detailed analysis of the law of June 1959 by Dr. A. H. Radji (the present Minister of Health, who placed this Act before the Iranian Parliament), a reference may be made to the Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. XII, No. 2.

This legislation is to be further developed by a brief bill, now under consideration by Parliament, which will carry further two tendencies that are strongly marked in modern Iranian legislation in this field. The first is an extension of the offences for which the death penalty is provided. In the law of 1959, this penalty exists for repeated offences of smuggling or manufacture of prohibited drugs. In the proposed new law, the death penalty will be extended to include any offence of illicit importation of prohibited drugs. The deterrent effect of stringent penalties is recognized. The second is the tendency to widen the scope of the law to catch the financiers and organizers of smuggling and drug trafficking. In the 1959 law, it was made an offence to aid drug traffickers or to profit from certain forms of trafficking. In the proposed new law, the Minister will be given the power to investigate the sources of the wealth of any person living in a frontier area where such wealth appears to be unusual in relation to the ostensible source of income of the person concerned. This proposed law is, as I have indicated, an extension of the 1959 law and not a new departure, since it carries to a logical conclusion existing tendencies that are strongly marked in the existing law. The present position in legislation in Iran is the culmination of the period of sociological legislation that was marked down as a general characteristic of a fully developed social conscience in a nation. It is difficult to predict future developments. They would depend on the development of the continuing problem represented by the narcotics traffic and the attempt to get rid of it. They would depend as much on world affairs as on Iran itself; and on developments in the field of international control. It is enough for the purposes of this paper to sum up the position in Iran in the terms which were laid down earlier as characteristic of national narcotics legislation, without attempting to predict the future. But before making a final summing up it is necessary to remember an important aspect of the general picture to which Iran has given a great deal of attention in the immediate past, in respect of which there are important provisions in the law of 1959. I refer to the setting up of courts which will interpret and administer the penal provisions of the law, since without such courts no legal system can be more than an academic exercise in law-making, or a capricious exercise of power.

To sum up progress in Iran, regulation did not succeed, and was not regarded as an answer to Iran's problem in this field. Prohibition was successfully introduced in 1955, when prudence might have suggested that half measures were more likely to be acceptable. Learning by experience of the working of prohibition, however, Iran has now introduced legislation that would be regarded as advanced in any country in the world. It has a wide scope; it sets up a new controlling administration on the lines suggested in the draft Single Convention; it introduces and enforces more stringent penal provisions; it has improved the working of the courts; it has greatly improved financial working, a reform without which any legislation that purports to set up an administration is doomed; and it makes adequate provision for the cure and care of drug addicts, within the means of which the country disposes, a movement which will be carried further as a result of studies which are now being made of the rehabilitation of dtug addicts as well as of the most up-to-date methods of their cure. The further law which is proposed, described above as an extension of the law of June 1959, not only further strengthens penal provisions; it also carries a step further the determination to carry the war into the camp of the financier and organizer of the large-scale smuggling traffic across Iran's frontiers, which is now regarded as more of a danger than the illicit cultivation of the opium poppy in Iran.

I have already stated that I do not propose to attempt to prophesy as to the future. But I reaffirm the position already indicated that internal legislation in Iran in this field has now reached the end of a stage of development. Internally, further developments will depend on whether and to what extent there is a demand for consolidation of the law, and what demands arise in the field of humanitarian work in the field of drugs. Much will depend, again, on the effectiveness of the administration of the present law. Good administration depends on factors that are quite outside the field of legislation and cannot be created by legislation. Here we can only note the good that has been done, and trust that equally good results will accrue in future. It is probable that the greatest effect on Iran's problem in the near future will rest in the field of foreign relations. The supplying of narcotics illicitly from outside the country has to be stopped.