Eighteenth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and Thirty-sixth Session of the Economic and Social Council
New treaties in the field of international narcotics control
Technical co-operation in narcotics control
Implementation of treaties and international control
Abuse of drugs (drug addiction)
Opium and opiates: scientific research
Pages: 39 to 42
Creation Date: 1963/01/01
Eighteenth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and Thirty-sixth Session of the Economic and Social Council
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Geneva from 29 April to 17 May 1963, and the Economic and Social Council met in Geneva from 2 July to 2 August 1963. The Commission elected as officers: Chairman, Dr. J. F. Mabileau (France); First Vice-Chairman, Dr. I. Vértes (Hungary); Second Vice-Chairman, Mr. D. N. Banerji (India); Rapporteur, Dr. M. Dadgar (Iran). Mr. R. E. Curran (Canada) was elected Chairman of the Committee on Illicit Traffic.
The membership of the Commission at its eighteenth session was the following: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Yugoslavia.
As far as the nineteenth session of the Commission was concerned, the Council decided that, whereas its other functional commissions should have no session in 1964, the Commission would meet for one week only from 4 to 8 May 1964 in Geneva, to attend to urgent business under various international agreements.
A summary of the work of the Commission and of the Council in the field is given below.
The international control of narcotic drugs has continued to yield results that may be judged satisfactory from several standpoints, but the control at present exercised is less effective as regards certain raw materials of the "natural" narcotic drugs, that is to say, the coca bush and the cannabis plant. It follows that illicit traffickers continue to obtain drugs derived from coca leaves from clandestine manufacturers who, in turn, are able to obtain the raw materials (coca leaves) they need for the illicit production of cocaine, either from illicit cultivation or from diversion from licit cultivation of the coca bush. In order to deal more realistically with the illicit traffic, it would be necessary to extend effective international and national control to the cultivation of the coca bush and cannabis plant grown for narcotic drugs.
The 1953 Opium Protocol came into force on 8 March 1963, following the deposit on 6 February 1963 of the instrument of ratification by the Government of Greece. Forty-seven States are parties to the Protocol. Thus, an important step forward has been taken in the direction outlined above in so far as the national and international control of the opium poppy is concerned. The Commission approved the actions which had been taken by the Secretary-General to facilitate the implementation of the new treaty, in particular: ( a) the appointment of an Appeals Committee required by article 12 of the Protocol; ( b) the revision of the present questionnaire for establishing the annual report required from governments under the international narcotics treaties so as to cover the 1953 Protocol; ( c) the circular letter to all governments informing them of the coming into force of the 1953 Protocol, with reference to the provisions governing the international trade in narcotics.
As for the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, the Commission noted that eighteen countries had become parties to the Single Convention, and that several other countries had either started or were considering domestic procedures towards ratification. The Commission was informed of a number of preparatory steps which had been taken pursuant to the decisions taken at its previous session. 1 It considered the document prepared by the secretariat in agreement with the President of the PCOB, suggesting that the present Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body be permitted to carry out the functions of the International Narcotics Control Board under the Single Convention until the expiration of their present terms of office in 1968. This suggestion was made to avoid administrative complications and was in accordance with the Single Convention. The Commission agreed to this proposal reserving, however, the right to reconsider the timing of the election of the International Narcotics Control Board in the light of the progress reported in the ratifications of the Single Convention.1
See Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. XIV, No. 4, p. 34.
The Commission also had before it a document prepared by the secretariat containing draft forms to be used in furnishing information to the Secretary-General under the new treaty, a draft form of import certificate, and suggesting dates by which such information should be sent. The Commission decided that these drafts should be transmitted to governments for their comments.
The Commission took note of a draft administrative guide for the application of the Single Convention by government officials concerned with the action required under the Convention, which had been prepared pursuant to Council resolution 914 D (XXXIV). The Commission thought that in order to be able to adopt an official version of the guide it would require the comments of governments, the PCOB and DSB and the ICPO, and it requested the Secretary-General to obtain such comments.
The technical co-operation activities in the field of narcotics control are carried out both under the specific programme established by the General Assembly in resolution 1395 (XIV) and under the Expanded Programme. In extending technical assistance to narcotics control the Council's aim was to change the rather static situation of control of illicit traffic. In adopting resolution 1395 (XIV) the General Assembly had particularly in mind the desirability of regional projects.
In 1962 fellowships were granted to Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey, and the services of one expert were provided to Iran. In 1963 fellowships to China, Iran, Greece, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Republic, as well as the services of an expert to Thailand, were granted.
In 1962 two regional projects were carried out: the first part of the Middle East Technical Assistance Mission on Narcotics Control, and the meeting of the Consultative Group on Coca-leaf Problems in Latin America. This was held in Lima in November and December 1962, and was attended by officials from eight American countries, as well as representatives of FAO, the ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO. The Pan-American Sanitary Bureau also participated in the meeting. The programme for 1963 includes the second part of the Middle East Technical Assistance Mission on Narcotics Control, and a seminar on narcotics control problems in Africa. As regards the programme for 1964, two regional projects are under discussion with governments, namely, a consultative group on regional narcotics problems in Asia and the Far East and a Latin American meeting to follow up the recommendations made by the Consultative Group on Coca-leaf Problems which met in Lima in 1962. The programme of technical assistance in narcotics control was approved by the Commission as an essential activity, the need for which was likely to increase. As regards the project for a consultative group in Asia, the representative of Japan announced that his government would be host to the proposed meeting. Regarding the project for a Latin American meeting, the Commission adopted a resolution inviting the Economic and Social Council to recommend that periodical meetings of officials of the American States concerned be held to review the progress made by individual governments in solving the coca leaf problem and that the General Assembly make an exceptional appropriation for 1964 to finalize such a meeting that year. The Economic and Social Council adopted this resolution with an amendment proposed by the Technical Assistance Committee which requested the Secretary-General to consider, in accordance with the usual criteria for assigning priority to projects requested under the United Nations Technical Assistance Programme, the organization, from savings available under part V of the United Nations budget, of such a meeting as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made.
Another project was discussed by the Commission: a request by the Government of Burma for the services of a group of technical experts to help in putting an end to poppy cultivation in the Kachin State of Burma. The Kachin authorities had embarked upon a programme for the abolition of opium cultivation and consumption, this opium being grown in the hill areas adjacent to the Chinese border. The Commission recommended to the Economic and Social Council the adoption of a resolution inviting the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the FAO, the WHO and other organizations of the United Nations family to consider favourably the request of the Government of Burma and recommending to the General Assembly to appropriate the necessary funds for the survey. The Council adopted that resolution with an amendment proposed by the Technical Assistance Committee. This amendment drew the attention of the Secretary-General to the fact that arrangements could be made for the conduct of a survey if requested by the government concerned, to take the place of a contemplated project under normal reprogramming procedures of the Expanded Programme or by assignment to category 2 for implementation when possible.
Governments continued to comply with their obligations under the various narcotics treaties to supply information and reports. The total number of countries or territories for which annual reports for 1961 had been received by 13 April 1963 was 150. By the same date 148 annual reports had been received for 1958, 151 for 1959, and 156 for 1960. The Commission decided to request the Secretary-General to remind governments of their obligation under article 13 of the 1925 Convention, that is, inter alia, to return copies of authorizations for the export of narcotic drugs.
There was further progress during the last year towards adherence to narcotics treaties and ratification of them. There had been 4 adherences to the 1912 Convention, 5 to the 1925 Convention, 6 to the 1931 Convention as amended, 6 to the 1948 Protocol, 4 to the 1953 Protocol, and 9 to the 1961 Convention. One new drug and its salts, namely, pethidine intermediate C, was placed under international control; one drug - namely, myrophine - which was already under provisional control was placed under the regime of control applicable to morphine-like drugs, and another one, nicocodine, was placed under the more lenient regime of control applicable to drugs like codeine.
In its annual review of the illicit traffic situation the Commission was aided in its task by the Committee on Illicit Traffic and was also, as usual, assisted by observers from a number of governments and organizations. It gave special attention to the situation in the Far East, and adopted a resolution in which it noted that the opium poppy was cultivated illicitly in some parts of the area for the production of opium, that illicit laboratories existed there for the manufacture of morphine and heroin and that there was a highly organized traffic in the area in all these drugs. Noting also that, although governments had intensified their efforts to deal with illicit production, the problem remained very serious, it urged that the governments concerned obtain more information about the areas in which the opium poppy was illicitly cultivated and about the location of illicit laboratories for the manufacture of morphine and heroin; register opium smokers with a view to the eventual elimination of the drug; and strengthen wherever necessary their enforcement services; control to the extent practicable the import and internal distribution of acetic anhydride and acetyl chloride; study the problem of eliminating the cultivation of the opium poppy by hill tribes; co-operate closely with other countries in the area; and ask for appropriate technical assistance to facilitate the implementation of plans for countering the illicit traffic. The Commission also noted that the quantities of cocaine seized were more important than in the preceding years, that the traffic in cannabis did not seem to be as highly organized as the traffic in opium and opiates or the cocaine traffic. Finally it noted that it did not appear that there was a traffic organized on an international plane in so far as synthetic narcotic drugs were concerned.
The Commission placed increased emphasis on the sociological aspects of drug addiction and, considering that the causes of addiction often lay in social conditions, felt that there was an urgent need for more research into this aspect of the problem. The question of publicity for advertising of both new and existing narcotic drugs and the possibility of such publicity leading to addiction were also considered.
The secretariat had, as in previous years, tried to show the extent of drug addiction and the drugs used by addicts throughout the world. The report dealt with 162 countries and territories and tried to classify countries according to the extent of their addiction problems: such a classification, however, could only be tentative because of the limited amount of information available and the great difference between one country and another in the completeness and accuracy of the information reported. 27 countries were shown as having one addict per 1,000 or less of population - the highest rate; 32 countries had one addict per 1,000 to 5,000 of population; and 103 countries had a rate of less than one addict per 5,000 of population. There was widespread addiction to such manufactured drugs as morphine and heroin and some addiction, though still on a small scale, to synthetic narcotic drugs. Opium was used by a very large number of addicts in the Far East and in some Middle Eastern countries; cannabis was misused in almost every part of the world; and there was the problem of chewing of coca leaf in some South American countries.
The United Nations laboratory continued its research on the development and application of simple, rapid and easily reproducible methods for the determination of the geographical origin of opium. No further modifications or changes had been made in these methods during the past year, and analyses had been made of a considerable number of samples of opium for the determination of origin. In approximately two-thirds of these cases the laboratory could be said to have indicated the geographical origin. Its inability to do so in others was due to the lack of authenticated samples from certain regions.
The Commission observed that considerable progress had been made in recent years in dealing with the problems of the coca leaf. All governments concerned had now recognized that coca-leaf chewing was harmful and must be abolished. That view had been confirmed at the Lima meeting of the Consultative Group on Coca-leaf Problems, 1962, in which officials of all the governments interested in the problem, namely, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the USA, had participated. Thanks to that meeting and the 1961 Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control held in Rio de Janeiro, more complete information was now available, giving a truer picture of the magnitude of the problem than had been possible before. The annual harvest of coca leaves in the main producing countries, according to the figures collected by the PCOB, amounted to approximately 13 million kg (10 million in Peru and about 3 million in Bolivia). However, from information given to the Conference at Lima, it appeared that the annual Bolivian harvest alone would be approximately 24 million kg. Probably not more than 1 per cent of this huge quantitity in Bolivia and Peru was needed for the legal manufacture of cocaine and the production of a flavouring substance for beverages. It was recognized that while coca-leaf chewing, as such, was a regional problem, it had aspects of universal relevance. As long as coca leaves were chewed there could not be a completely effective control of their production, and clandestine manufacturers of cocaine could obtain the raw material for the supply of cocaine with which they flooded the international illicit market. The illicit traffic in cocaine had, in fact, increased in recent years.
The problem was a very difficult one. It was generally recognized that though millions of people chewed the leaves, they did not have enough food and the chewing enabled them to do some work in spite of the deficiency of nutrition, which in turn lead to general physical and mental debilitation. The immediate prohibition or reduction of the production of coca leaves would lead to grave economic difficulties in the countries concerned. The governments themselves made a great effort but their task was formidable. In many coca-leaf producing districts, marketable substitute crops could not be grown. A multiple project was required, involving the substitution of crops, development of animal husbandry, reforestation, development of handicrafts, industrialization and, above all, abolition of illiteracy, improvement of general and vocational education and even some resettlement of population. It was beyond the resources of the governments concerned to accomplish such a task in a short time. They required assistance not only from international organizations, but also from friendly governments. They were, however, aware that they must themselves make the main effort. The Commission considered that the time had come for action; it might be necessary to survey local conditions of particular coca-leaf producing or chewing regions in order to adapt local programmes of action to special local conditions. The Commission also hoped that the recommendations of the Lima Conference would be followed up by appropriate action of the governments concerned.
The Commission considered the special problems connected with cannabis or hemp, which is used throughout the world in several forms among which marihuana and hashish are probably the best known. These special problems include such matters as the use of the cannabis plant for making fibre; the vast distribution of the wild plant and the ease with which it can be cultivated; the continued use of the drug in some indigenous systems of medicine; the fact that the use of the drug for enjoyment does not carry any social stigma in some parts of the world; the fact that cannabis is much less strictly controlled under the existing international narcotics treaties than drugs like morphine and opium.
In view of the lack of information on the cannabis situation in some parts of the world, the Secretary-General was asked to approach the governments concerned, with a view to clarifying the picture in certain countries in the Far East and in Africa and Madagascar. In order to help enforcement officers to identify cannabis in the illicit traffic (a difficult matter when cannabis is powdered and mixed with other materials), the United Nations laboratory was asked to give particular attention to the question of chemical methods of identification.