Review of the 22nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the 44th session of the Economic and Social Council


Review of the 22nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the 44th session of the Economic and Social Council


Left to right, at the presiding table: Messrs. V. Ku&scaronevic, Director, Division of Narcotic Drugs, P. P. Spinelli, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and R. Curran (Canada), Chairman.


Pages: 37 to 41
Creation Date: 1968/01/01

Review of the 22nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the 44th session of the Economic and Social Council

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Left to right, at the presiding table: Messrs. V. Ku&scaronevic, Director, Division of Narcotic Drugs, P. P. Spinelli, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and R. Curran (Canada), Chairman.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs held its 22nd session in Geneva in January 1968. The Economic and Social Council, at its 44th session in New York in May 1968, took note of the report on that session and approved several proposals made by the Commission.


The Commission's 1968 session was marked by unanimous agreement that the psychotropic substances other than narcotic drugs, i.e. sedatives and stimulants of the central nervous system as well as hallucinogens, should be brought under control by means of an international instrument. In addition, the Commission proposed that national legislative measures for the control of these substances should be taken immediately, pending formal treaty action. As regards LSD and similar substances, it again urged severe measures of restriction upon governments.

The Commission also voiced a strong warning against the abuse of cannabis and the continuing need for strict control over this drug. It noted that the efforts of the Government of Lebanon to replace cannabis cultivation by other crops were advancing and it voiced support and encouragement for this effort.

In the Near and Middle East, the Commission further noted that illicit traffic in narcotic drugs, particularly opium, certain opiates and hashish continued to be serious, and it called upon the countries of the region to make an effective study of the problem in order that the fight against contraband might be carried out with greater success.

On all these three subjects, the Council approved resolutions addressed to governments put up to it by the Commission.

Membership and attendance

The members of the Commission at its 22nd session were: Brazil, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Ghana, Hungary, India, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America, Yugoslavia.

The session was also attended by observers from the following States: Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burma, Cuba, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malaysia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Tunisia, Venezuela, Viet-Nam.

The following States were also invited to send observers but did not do so: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Greece, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Nepal, Singapore and Syria.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the Permanent Central Narcotics Board, the Permanent AntiNarcotics Bureau of the League of Arab States and the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/INTERPOL) were also represented as well as the International Council of Women and the International Federation of Women Lawyers.

Office-holders: Mr. R. E. Curran, Q.C. (Canada) was elected Chairman, the other office-holders being: Mr. A. Asahina (Japan), First Vice-Chairman; Mr. J. P. Bertschinger (Switzerland), Second Vice-Chairman; and Mr. P. Beedle (United Kingdom), Rapporteur.

Sedatives, stimulants and hallucinogens

The Commission's concern with these substances - dating back to 1959 - advanced to the point of general agreement that international action through an international instrument needed to be taken to meet the widespread of abuse that had now come to prevail. The steps initiated by the Commission in its last session culminated in a detailed study by the Secretary-General and another by the Permanent Central Narcotics Board on the legal administrative and other questions involved in extending international control to these psychotropic substances.[1] The majority view of the Commission agreed with the conclusions reached in the studies put up to it, and confirmed by a specific opinion from the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations, that the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, was not suitable for the purpose of extending controls to the psychotropic substances. The majority accordingly expressed itself in favour of a new treaty to apply the elements of control that were generally agreed upon. On the contrary, three countries in the Commission held that the Single Convention could in fact be extended to cover these non-narcotic psychotropic substances.

The Commission invited the Secretary-General to send to governments a questionnaire on the form of treaty action that should be taken, and the selective controls to be applied to the four groups of substances in question. It was recognized that the risk to public health that the substances presented varied greatly, as among the four groups as well as inside each group. The degree of control to be applied to them had to be gauged in terms of the risk and also in terms of practicability.

The questionnaire was sent to governments and at the time of writing their replies were beginning to reach the Secretary-General.

The Commission also asked that a draft international instrument be prepared, based on control measures already suggested in the Secretary-General's study. This draft, together with an analysis of the governments' replies to the questionnaire, would be considered at the next session of the Commission in January 1969.

Interim measures: The Commission felt that, pending a formal international agreement, governments should take all possible legislative measures to solve the problem. A resolution adopted by the Council (Resolution No. 1293 (XLIV) recommends to governments "to adopt legislation, if they have not already done so" to ensure that the substances are nationally available only on medical prescription, that all transactions in them from the stage of production to retail distribution are supervised by the State, that all producers are licensed, trade limited to authorized persons only, and finally that nonauthorized possession for distribution is prohibited.

These particular measures were recommended by the WHO Expert Committee for drugs liable to produce addiction in 1965, and were endorsed in turn by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 1966 and by the World Health Assembly in 1967. These five measures will most probably be an essential part of whatever form of international instrument is adopted.

The LSD danger

In the case of hallucinogens, like LSD, more severe and urgent measures were called for, and Council&rsquos resolution 1294 (XLIV) adopted on the Commission&rsquos recommendation urges governments to prohibit all use except in medical and scientific institutions directly under government control and then only for approved medical or scientific purposes, and also to prohibit all import and export except between governments or specifically approved authorities. In addition, the Council called upon governments to consider appropriate measures to prevent the use of lysergic acid and other possible intermediate or precursor substances for the illicit manufacture of LSD or any other hallucinogenic substance.

It was noted that the 20th World Health Assembly in May 1967 had also unanimously adopted a resolution urging its member States to take similarly strict measures of control over sedative and stimulants as well as LSD and other hallucinogens. In its resolution 21.42, adopted last May, the twenty-first World Health Assembly expressed full support for the measures being sponsored by the United Nations Commission in this field.

The developing international action to apply the requisite controls to all these substances thus finds the World Health Organization, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs moving in concert.

The abuse of cannabis and the continuing need for strict control

The Commission's attention was drawn by the representatives of the United States of America and of Canada to active publicity being carried on in their countries in favour of legalization or toleration of the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes. The Commission noted that no scientific evidence had been adduced that might justify any relaxation of control. On the contrary, the spread of cannabis abuse to new areas, its association with other forms of drug abuse, particularly of LSD, made it even more necessary to maintain the present restriction on cannabis which was covered by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961. On the Commission's recommendation, the Council adopted resolution 1291 (XLIV) declaring that "inefficient controls over, apathy towards and lack of public awareness of the dangers of cannabis and its continued abuse contribute to drug dependence, create law enforcement problems, and injure national health, safety and welfare. The Council "recommended that all countries concerned increase their efforts to eradicate the abuse and illicit traffic in cannabis". At the same time it asked governments to promote research on medical and sociological aspects arising in the case of this drug, and effectively counter any publicity for the legalization or tolerance of its non-medical use.

Eradication of cannabis cultivation in Lebanon

In 1966 the Commission had been informed of the Government of Lebanon's effort to find substitute crops for the large-scale cannabis cultivation which took place in that country. The Commission now had before it a study [2] based on information gathered by a member of the Secretariat who had visited Lebanon with the agreement of the authorities. On the basis of this information, the Commission gathered that the production of sun- flower for seed and the cultivation of other crops was going forward in the country, and there were indications that a new chapter might thus be opening in the eradication of cannabis production in the Lebanon.

The Commission observed that 1,600 hectares had been planted with sunflower in 1967 in the cannabis-growing area, while the total area under cannabis might be as large as 5,000 hectares. The observer for Lebanon stated that the acreage under substitute crops was expected to reach 3,000 hectares in 1968. While the substitute crops at present were subsidized, the Government of Lebanon could not continue the subsidy indefinitely and it accordingly appealed for international co-operation to assist it in its effort. The cultivation of cannabis in Lebanon could be totally eradicated within three years if the Government had the moral support of the international community which would help the Government to defend this project against opposition from adverse interests at home, secondly if it could have capital assistance to the amount of some US$ 200,000 to 300,000 in the form of equipment for processing the produce of substitute crops, such as sunflower seed, tobacco and aromatic oils, and thirdly if purchase agreements were entered into to take off commodities, such as sunflower-seed oil and tobacco produced from the substitute cultivation, at prices sufficient to cover the Government's investment. If such agreements could be reached to cover agricultural production from an area of 5,000 hectares, the observer for Lebanon declared to the Commission that "it would soon become possible to talk no more of cannabis in Lebanon ".

The Commission expressed unanimous support for the Lebanese project and noted that the matter of material assistance and sales agreements was one for bilateral negotiations.

On the Commission's recommendation, the Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution (1292 (XLIV)) congratulating the Government and expressing the hope that it would succeed in its effort and urging it to continue to give the project due priority. It recognized that "if the Government of Lebanon succeeds in eradicating such cultivation, this would have a significant benefit in fighting the illicit traffic in cannabis and cannabis resin in the region... ". The Commission recommended that the Government should receive all possible technical assistance from the United Nations and specialized agencies, in particular the Food and Agricultural Organization. Finally, the Commission requested the Secretary-General to maintain close liaison with the Government on the development of its efforts, and report thereon both to the Commission of Narcotic Drugs and the Council itself "until such time as necessary".

The poppy straw process for the extraction of morphine

The Commission considered the continuation of this study begun by the Secretariat for its last session, in which an analysis was made of the factors involved in morphine extraction from poppy straw as against opium.[3] A complex of political, economic, social and technical factors came into play when one source of morphine was compared with the other. The representatives of the USSR and Yugoslavia informed the Commission that in the light of economic factors affecting their opium production, their countries were now giving greater emphasis to the use of poppy straw as the source of morphine, and Yugoslavia had drastically reduced opium production with a view to its total abolition in the near future.

The representative of India considered opium more advantageous than poppy straw as a raw material for morphine, while the representative of Turkey said that the whole question would require to be carefully assessed in his country, where more than 100,000 families depended upon opium production for their livelihood.

The Commission noted that the question had been considered at the UN Consultative Group on Opium Problems which had met in New Delhi in October 1967 and it decided to resume this discussion at its next session when the New Delhi report would be available to it.

Coca leaf

The Commission was informed that Peru was taking steps to fulfil its obligations under the Single Convention to progressively put an end to the habit of coca-leaf chewing. The area at present under cultivation covers 16,000 hectares and no new licences for cultivation were being issued. A vigorous educational campaign was being prosecuted to counteract the chewing habit. The Commission welcomed these developments and assured the Government of Peru of all support in its effort to solve the problem of coca-leaf chewing. The Commission expressed regret that Bolivia had not sent an observer to the session, since it felt that first-hand information on the coca-leaf situation in that country would have been of great help to it in assisting the Government in its future plans to fight this pernicious habit.

Abuse of drugs (drug addiction)

The Commission reviewed trends on drug abuse in various regions on the basis of an analysis made by the Secretariat.[4] Half the governments in Africa had reported a more or less widespread abuse of cannabis. Changes in Africa's social structure and the factor of migration were among the causes of the spread of cannabis in certain countries of the region, where young people appeared to be primarily affected so far as new abusers were concerned.

In the Americas, the problem of coca-leaf chewing continued to be prevalent in certain South American countries, while in the northern continent heroin was the predominant drug of addiction, though the use of cannabis in the form of marijuana was also extremely wide-spread.

In Europe, only a few countries had a problem of drug addiction, and among these the United Kingdom had registered a disturbingly sharp increase in the number of heroin addicts particularly among younger age groups.

In the Far East, the abuse of opium continued but campaigns against this drug were meeting with success in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. In three countries of the region, opium had been gradually replaced by heroin which, in some cases, presented a severe problem. The number of persons abusing cannabis and the quantity of cannabis consumed were very high in the region as a whole.

In the Near and Middle East, the abuse of cannabis was widespread. In certain countries, the number of opium addicts remained high, while in one country an alarming increase of heroin addiction had been reported.

In Africa, the Far East, Central and South America, and the Near and Middle East, facilities for the treatment of drug addiction were lacking or inadequate, but were generally available in North America and Europe.

The abuse of psychotropic substances, primarily barbiturates and amphetamines, was widespread in North America and Europe, with some countries having also the alarming problem of the abuse of LSD. Lack of statistics made it difficult to assess if such substances were also being abused in other regions of the world, but there was information from certain countries that this might be the case. The Commission considered that in these other parts of the world there was a potential danger, even if the dimensions of abuse were not yet precisely delineated.

In connexion with the problem of drug abuse, the Commission expressed concern at the resort to psychotropes or other pharmaceuticals and even to narcotic drugs by certain sportsmen and athletes, with the sole object of artificially improving performance. Considering these practices, generally known as "doping ", dangerous, the Commission adopted a resolution recommending governments to take measures to prevent this practice, which was later endorsed by the Council as its own (No. 1295 (XLIV)).

Illicit traffic

The Commission reviewed the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs on the basis of a joint study by the UN Secretariat and that of the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/INTERPOL).[5] The world-wide pattern of the drug traffic appeared in 1966/67 to be the same as in past years. The flow of traffic was at a very high level judging from the total quantity of drug contraband seized, the size of individual seizures, the large number of prosecutions in many countries, and the relative stability of the prices of drugs in the illicit market. The main drugs continued to be opium and the opiates, together with cannabis, cocaine and coca leaf. Synthetic drugs were hardly involved.

The Commission repeated its long-held conviction that severe penalties for drug trafficking could prove an effective deterrent and it noted that, in general, during 1966 severe sentences had been imposed by certain countries on traffickers directly involved in the morphine or heroin traffic. Some countries had even applied the death penalty. In the case of cannabis, sentences for trafficking appeared to be less severe, but more countries were now imposing mandatory terms of imprisonment.

The Commission noted that with a view to improving their enforcement arm to fight the illicit traffic, certain countries had benefited from training at the United States Bureau of Narcotics Training School, and officers from certain countries had also received training in exercises organized regionally by the United Nations as well as ICPO/INTERPOL.

The international nature of the drug traffic and its wide ramifications called for co-operation between governments if their enforcement effort was to be effective. Some countries still complained of lack of cooperation from neighbours and ways should be found of arriving at effective and close co-operation in those areas where the traffic was active. In the Middle East, particularly, senior enforcement officers of all the countries concerned should get together to make a concerted attack on the well-established trafficking channels in the region, and the Commission adopted a specific resolution (1290 (XLIV)) urging the governments in the Near and Middle East to take such a step.

Technical co-operation on narcotic drugs control

The Commission was informed that 10 fellowships had been awarded under the UN special programme in this field- to Iran, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Senegal, Sudan, Spain, Syria and Thailand. The aspects covered in this training had included enforcement, control on licit trade in narcotic drugs, the treatment of drug addiction and scientific research.

The survey of the economic and social conditions of the opium-producing areas in Thailand had been completed by a UN team of experts sent out under the technical co-operation programme and its report presented to the Government.

Among regional exercises, an enforcement seminar had been held in April 1967 in Addis Ababa for the benefit of officers from East African countries. Most countries of Asia and the Far East, together with other countries especially interested in the subject, had met at the UN Consultative Group on Opium Problems in New Delhi in October 1967.

The Commission considered that the UN programme was of great importance in helping countries in the narcotics field, and it adopted a resolution requesting an increase of budgetary allocations for this programme, within the framework of the approved budget.

The working of the international treaties

The Commission reviewed the annual reports of governments on the situation in their countries as required under the narcotics treaties, and also the laws and regulations promulgated to apply the treaty provisions. It noted the changes in the scope of control with respect to certain drugs, for example, acetorphorine and etorphine, the case of which is presented on a separate page.

The Commission welcomed the increasing number of ratifications and accession to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which attained 64 at the end of April 1968.


Document E/CN/7/509 and its Annex I.




Documents E/CN.7/497 and E/CN.7/508, Add.1.


Document E/CN.7/507.