First report of the International Narcotics Control Board
Importance of controlling narcotic raw materials
CONTROL OF LICIT PRODUCTION - Opium
Uncontrolled and illicit production of cannabis
Uncontrolled and illicit production of opium and coca leaves
THE MAIN ELEMENTS OF THE PROBLEM
Pages: 33 to 38
Creation Date: 1969/01/01
The Board came into existence on 2 March 1968 as the successor body to the Permanent Central Narcotics Board. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs took note with great satisfaction of the Board's first report which was presented to it last January, and in which the Board reviews the whole field of narcotics control underlining the various problems that exist in this domain.
In presenting the Report of the Commission, the President of the Board welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 2434 (XXIII) which is reproduced elsewhere in this number of the Bulletin, and which will have a direct bearing upon the problem of raw narcotic drugs flowing into the illicit traffic.
The President of the Board expressed doubts before the Commission as to the wisdom of Iran resuming opium production as a counter-measure to the illicit supplies of opium which were coming into that country.
The following extracts from the report give the Board's views on the importance of controlling the narcotic raw materials, and also in the problem of drug addiction.
Recent developments have added to the problems posed by opium, coca leaves and cannabis; and the problem of the hour is the widespread abuse of sedatives, stimulants and hallucinogenic substances such as L.S.D. The easy availability and self-administration of psychotropic drugs, some of which are quite dangerous, call for specific measures of control at the national and international level, lest Governments be faced with an unmanageable situation in a few years.
The Board agrees with its predecessor body, the Permanent Central Narcotics Board, that timely and adequate measures are essential if this problem is to be contained within tolerable dimensions. Like its predecessor body the Board emphasizes the urgent need for adequate corrective measures, including the early adoption of international legislation on the lines now being considered and its experience is at the disposal of those who are actively concerned with this task.
The proper functioning of the international narcotics control depends to a large extent on the quality of the reports and statistics submitted by Governments in accordance with treaty provisions. It is essential that this information and data should be precise, complete and furnished regularly and on the dates prescribed.
The Board welcomes the recommendation of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs that efforts be made to strengthen the penal provisions relating to international illicit traffic in narcotic drugs. There is room for improvement in two particular respects: (a) the imposition of deterrent penalties on convicted offenders, and (b) the need to prevent traffickers from escaping prosecution on purely technical grounds of lack of jurisdiction. This latter loophole could be closed if trafficking in narcotic drugs were made an extraditable offence or if arrangements were made for the expulsion of such offenders from the country in which they have taken refuge. Because much of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs is international it is necessary to improve the machinery for direct, informal and rapid co-operation between national enforcement agencies. Co-operation between adjoining States should be strengthened wherever and as soon as possible.
An important and necessary check to illicit traffic would be to curtail the supply of narcotic raw materials, particularly opium and coca leaves destined for the illicit manufacture of morphine, heroin and cocaine. This can be approached in two ways:
By tighter control over licit production with a view to prevention of leakage; and
By the eventual elimination of the uncontrolled or illicit production which is the major source of supply for clandestine manufacture.
Need for adequate surveillance
Any consideration of the economic future of opium as the primary raw material for morphine and for the consequent manufacture of codeine must take into account the increasing competition from poppy straw. The possibility that an acceptable synthetic substitute for codeine may appear should not be excluded. While opium continues to be produced, however, there is always a danger of leakage from legal cultivation into the illicit market, and in view of the difficulty of controlling an agricultural product of this nature it is of the utmost importance that everything possible should be done to maintain a high standard of surveillance.
It is beyond doubt that a disquietingly large quantity of opium is diverted each year from licit production. The Board appreciates that control over an agricultural product like opium is by no means easy. Nevertheless the situation could be substantially improved if all the authorities concerned would more closely apply the relevant provisions of the 1953 Protocol or the 1961 Convention, for example by restricting production to districts specified by the National Opium Monopoly and to licensed farmers.
To facilitate and strengthen the control, the licence of each cultivator should specify the measurements and location of the plot he intends to sow. These particulars should be verified by inspection and measurements after the poppy has begun to grow, to ensure that additional opium is not produced for sale to traffickers.
The granting of licences should be strictly controlled: if a cultivator is suspected of withholding part of his crop from the monopoly his licence should be withdrawn. In this connexion the Board commends a practice which has been adopted with excellent results in India, whereby licences are refused to cultivators whose opium yield per acre is comparatively low and a premium is paid to those who achieve a high yield. This tends to eliminate both inefficient farmers and those who sell part of their produce on the illicit market.
Delays in the collection of opium give rise to theft and diversion and it is essential that immediately after the harvest the crop be delivered to the Opium Monopoly. Severe penalties should be imposed on traffickers found guilty of buying from farmers, and on farmers convicted of selling to anyone other than the Monopoly.
Constructive measures by Turkey
It has been particularly gratifying therefore to learn of the decisions of the Government of Turkey to terminate opium production in its outlying border areas where there was a continual risk of leakage over the frontier into neighbouring countries, and to concentrate the cultivation of the opium poppy in the centre of the country where it could be more adequately controlled. This measure and the prospective improvement of the control administration are commendable and should show good results. The Board welcomes this co-operative attitude on the part of the Government of Turkey and will follow the results of these reforms with close interest.
Plan to eliminate remaining opium production in Burma
It also felicitates the Government of Burma on its decision to extend its prohibition of opium poppy cultivation to the area east of the Salween River where opium smoking is still practised and it hopes to receive reassuring reports on the progress of this extension of control.
Inadvisability of new opium production
The difficulties inherent in applying effective control over an agricultural product make it most inadvisable that opium production should be undertaken outside the existing areas of licit poppy cultivation. The Permanent Central Narcotics Board drew attention to the fact that certain countries had been contemplating such action and that agricultural advisers to developing countries had sometimes recommended opium as a possible cash crop to diversify or expand a limited agricultural economy.
The present Board feels it should be made abundantly clear that any country embarking on the production of opium would find itself faced with legal, administrative and economic difficulties. For example, the 1961 Convention requires that before commencing (or increasing) the production of opium a Party must first ensure that this would not result in over-production in the world at large; and it would not be possible to satisfy this condition since the present production level is already sufficient for legitimate needs.
Moreover the control measures prescribed by the 1961 Convention and the 1953 Protocol would be costly and difficult to administer. It has taken many years for the traditional opium-producing countries to develop and consolidate their control structure; and even so they have not been wholly able to prevent the diversion of opium into the illicit traffic. Obviously therefore a country embarking on opium production might quickly become a centre of the illicit traffic endangering the health and well-being of its own inhabitants and those of neighbouring countries.
From the economic standpoint also such a venture is unattractive in view of the low market price of opium and particularly if there should be increasing resort to poppy straw as an alternative source of morphine.
It has further to be remembered that 90 per cent of the morphine obtained from opium is used for the manufacture of codeine, so that opium's long-term economic future is continually threatened by the possibility, alluded to above, that a synthetic codeine substitute might be evolved which would be generally adopted by the medical profession.
Increasing use of poppy straw
Looked at solely from the standpoint of control, the growing recourse to poppy straw is welcome since it is too bulky to be a raw material for the clandestine manufacture of morphine and heroin, and if in the course of time the world's legitimate requirements of morphine should be still further met from poppy straw, international narcotics control will to that extent be eased.
Advisability of reassessing the economics of traditional opium production
The foregoing considerations also provide cogent reasons for the traditional producing countries to re-examine the validity of opium as a feature of their agricultural economy and to explore the possibility of replacing it by other and more profitable crops.
In its Report for 1966 1 the Permanent Central Narcotics Board commented on the field costs of opium production in some countries and pointed out that where the standard of living has risen or is rising, the financial return to the farmer in real terms is so slender that it is doubtful whether the activity is at all economic. In blunt fact it only becomes lucrative for the farmer if he sells part of his crop on the illicit market. Replacement of opium by other and more freely marketable crops therefore would be in the interest alike of the farmer and of the agricultural economy of the country, and would also benefit international narcotics control.
Organized cultivation of the coca leaf is at present only permitted in Peru and Bolivia: the small-scale licit production in Indonesia ceased in 1967. Production is now prohibited in Colombia and Ecuador but coca leaves nevertheless continue to be harvested there.
If production of coca leaves were to be authorized only for the manufacture of flavouring agents and cocaine the control problem would be manageable and capable of solution, since the annual requirement for these purposes is no more than 200-500 tons. Authoritative medical opinion holds that coca leaf and its preparations have no place in modern medicine and that cocaine itself, though still used, is more and more becoming regarded as obsolete and is being replaced by effective local anaesthetics without liability to produce dependence. Statistics confirm that the medical usage of cocaine has been diminishing over the years.
Document E/OB/22, paras. 50 and 51.
Coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia however is not directed only to the authorized manufacture of cocaine and flavouring agents: the vast bulk of the leaf produced goes to satisfy a long-established and deleterious habit amongst the Andean Indians, many of whom live in precarious economic conditions and resort to chewing the leaves to quell the pangs of hunger.
Prima facie it could be argued that the coca-chewing habit is a local public health problem of concern only to the countries of the Andean Highlands since it hinders the economic and social progress of these regions. However it carries serious international implications.
To meet the demand created by this habit the cultivation of coca leaves has expanded considerably. Because of the physical impracticability of surveillance over the extensive areas of production, clandestine manufacturers of cocaine have been able to locate themselves conveniently near and to obtain ample supplies of their raw material. The cocaine so produced then passes through international illicit channels to several victim countries.
Lines of action
It is in the international interest as well as in the economic and social interest of the Andean regions that coca leaf production should be reduced and brought under control. Action is required on two fronts: to reduce the areas of organized production to manageable proportions and, in parallel, progressively to reduce and eventually eliminate the coca-chewing habit.
The Board recognizes that this twin course of action presents serious socio-economic difficulties. Traditional agricultural patterns will need to be re-orientated and coca cultivation replaced by nutritive and readily marketable crops produced under more modern methods of cultivation; and the Andean Indians must be weaned away from the chewing habit by intensive and sustained public health and educational programmes and by improving their standard of living. In an area poorly endowed by nature the task is clearly a formidable one and will take years to accomplish. The authors of the 1961 Convention were conscious of this and allowed a period of 25 years-from the date of the entry into force of the treaty in 1964-for the progressive elimination of the non-medical use of coca leaves. This presupposed however that reform should begin at once and should be consistently and increasingly pursued throughout the 25 years. The Board emphasizes this assumption since it would be unrealistic to expect that a task of such dimensions could be achieved if action were postponed until the latter part of the allocated period.
Major role to be played by the Governments of Peru and Bolivia
Although uncontrolled coca cultivation in Colombia and Ecuador also gives cause for concern, the international community must continue to look principally to the authorities of Bolivia and Peru if substantial progress is to be made.
The Governments of Peru and Bolivia do not dispute that coca leaf chewing is harmful and the Board recognizes their desire to eliminate the habit and to reduce the production of coca leaves for this purpose.
The Board understands that constructive measures were launched in Peru some time ago with the aim of reducing the areas of organized coca cultivation by as much as 10 per cent every two years. The Board would be very interested to learn what progress has been so far achieved. It is vitally important that the momentum of the campaign should be maintained and the Board earnestly requests the Peruvian authorities to concentrate their efforts in this endeavour.
The Board would address a similar appeal to the Bolivian authorities. It attaches importance to the agreement concluded between Bolivia and the Permanent Central Narcotics Board which envisages the gradual elimination of coca chewing and the production of the leaves, and it will follow with the greatest interest the measures to be taken under the terms of the agreement. In particular it hopes that useful progress is being made in the current studies directed towards replacing the coca leaf by other crops and it trusts that it may very soon be informed that a practical plan of action has been drawn up and set in motion.
The Board is anxious that the authorities should not allow themselves to be daunted by the magnitude of the problem and thereby undermine such progress as has so far been made. A vigorous momentum must be built up and maintained and the Board calls upon the Governments of Bolivia and Peru to continue to concentrate their immediate efforts in the following sectors: firstly the active prohibition of any new coca leaf planting; secondly the application of measures whenever and wherever possible to restrict authorized cultivation to specified districts; and thirdly a strengthening of the enforcement services employed in the drive against clandestine cocaine manufacture and in the pursuit and prosecution of illicit traffickers.
Economic advancement and the elimination of the chewing habit however continue to be the key to an effective solution of the problem and they are interrelated. Coca leaves are often, perhaps mostly, chewed to alleviate the pangs of hunger, and it has been observed that when coca chewers change their environment and receive an appropriate and balanced diet, they give up the habit. It is evident therefore that economic uplift and public health programmes must proceed hand in hand.often
On the educational front a substantial contribution could be made by both public and private institutions.
Need for international aid
The effective replacement of coca cultivation by other crops will in fact entail a radical change in the agricultural economy, for which substantial administrative, technical and financial resources will be needed. Such a major change can only be achieved with the support of external assistance based on a comprehensive plan drawn up after careful study.
It is gratifying to know that the Altiplano area in Bolivia is scheduled for economic improvement with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme. Although this area is slightly outside the coca-growing regions, the Board hopes that when the programme is implemented the Bolivian and UNDP authorities will be able to extend its purview so as to take account of the coca leaf problem, which calls urgently for attention. In its resolution 1105(XL) the Economic and Social Council invited the United Nations and the specialized agencies to give such assistance, which should not be delayed if the intentions of the 1961 Convention in this respect are to be fulfilled.
Relatively to its illicit production, the organized cultivation of the cannabis plant for its fibre and for its oil-bearing seeds is not on a large scale and the plants are not in general used for extraction of the drug content.
There is also a certain licit production of cannabis for traditional medical and non-medical purposes in India and Pakistan and adjacent northern countries, but otherwise the non-medical use of cannabis is almost universally prohibited. Both India and Pakistan have prohibited the use of cannabis resin and have undertaken to bring the non-medical use of cannabis to an end within a period of 25 years from the entry into force of the 1961 Convention. Although in the opinion of the World Health Organization cannabis preparations have no intrinsic medical value, certain countries continue to use cannabis for medical purposes.
Illicit production of cannabis is widespread and its elimination presents great and complex difficulties.
The plant can grow almost anywhere and the drugs obtained from it appear increasingly in the illicit traffic. Bearing in mind the grave social ills which can and do result from this traffic, it is clearly incumbent on all Governments concerned to take every means at their disposal to eradicate the illicit production of cannabis.
In some areas, however, much of the local population now depends for its livelihood on the sale of cannabis. Where this is the case, the elimination of production will call for economic and social measures to raise the standard of living of the cultivators, and in some instances international assistance will be needed.
The Board welcomes the decision of the Lebanese Government, as part of its "Green Plan", to eliminate cannabis cultivation in its territory.
Successful completion of this programme would undoubtedly represent a major advance in the campaign against the international illicit traffic in cannabis.
The illicit traffic in cannabis, in cocaine and in the opiates have a common feature in that by far the greater part of the raw material of all three groups comes from uncontrolled or illicit production. The Board has indicated the benefits which would certainly flow from more efficient control of the legal production of opium and coca leaves, but it endorses the opinion of its predecessors that no real progress will be made in the international narcotics campaign until the uncontrolled and illicit production of these substances is substantially reduced. The coca leaf situation is indisputably grave. As for opium, illicit and uncontrolled production in different parts of the world offers an enormous source of supply, actual and potential: indeed the total yield from South East Asia alone is confidently estimated to exceed the total licit world production for legitimate purposes.
The gravity of this situation has been set out in the Permanent Central Narcotics Board's last two annual reports.4 The lack of control in the areas in question chiefly derives from an inadequate administrative structure or from the fact that they are difficult of access and are therefore beyond the effective authority of their Governments. In many of these areas, moreover, opium production is of very long standing and is closely bound up in the social practice of the local populations; and it is often of critical importance to them as being the only cash crop in a desperately poor agricultural economy.
In such circumstances, the only hope of achieving substantial progress would be by means of a broadly based programme of economic and social advancement and the present Board agrees with its predecessors that an essential first step is to undertake a study of the financial and administrative implications of such a programme, so that the practicability of undertaking it, perhaps by stages, can be further explored.
Document E/OB/22, para. 56-125, and document E/OB/23-E/DSB/25, para. 87-89 and 92
New perspectives in the campaign against drug abuse
The Board appreciates that in the present troubled state of the world the attention and energies of Governments are absorbed by events which over-shadow the phenomenon of drug abuse and dwarf the importance of this abuse as a social problem. While in some countries conscientious efforts, both public and private are being made to cope with the problem, in others the impact of more urgent considerations may cause it to be displaced in the governmental scale of priorities and thereby hamper the national authorities concerned in their response to the long-term dangers for society inherent in this abuse, which in some parts of the world is rapidly gaining ground particularly in the younger age-groups at all social levels.
Any real or apparent falling-away in active, continuous interest in drug problems, whether on the part of the general public or of national control authorities, is bound to create a climate conducive to increased misuse, both of the better-known drugs such as opiates, opioids, cocaine, and cannabis and of the psychotropic substances.
The Board urges Governments to intensify their measures against the illicit traffic in dependence-producing drugs in their respective territories and to protect the actual and potential drug-dependent persons by providing programmes for the treatment and rehabilitation of those already dependent and by furthering educational and other social measures designed to prevent the development of drug abuse in the first instance.
The basic factors in the social problem of drug abuse are the demand created by those who abuse or are dependent on drugs, the supply by the illicit trade to meet that demand, and the reaction of society in defending itself against the harmful effects of drug abuse. The first two of these factors, though complementary to each other and indeed inseparably intertwined, spring from entirely different motives, the drug-dependent person being driven by a compulsive need while the trafficker is actuated by the prospect of a calculated material gain at whatever cost in human misery.
Yet, because these two closely linked factors appeared to constitute a single social problem, it was assumed that the problem could be adequately met by the simple application of traditional defensive measures aimed at safeguarding the legitimate interests of society and penalizing activities which are antagonistic to these interests. In the context of dependence-producing drugs this meant on the one hand to restrain normal trade to quantities sufficient to satisfy medical and scientific needs, and on the other hand to prohibit supplies for non-medical purposes and treat any infraction of this prohibition as a crime.
This approach indeed achieved dramatic results. As related in the reports of the Permanent Central Narcotics Board for 1966 and 1967,5 the implementation of the 1925 Convention establishing control over international licit trade and the 1931 Convention imposing a quantitative limitation on drug manufacture stemmed the previous spate of manufactured narcotic drugs from authorized factories into illicit channels and thereby checked the spread of drug addiction, which in the twenties and early thirties had assumed epidemic proportions. Since then the illicit manufacture of drugs has been progressively narrowed down to clandestine manufacture in a few regions where the raw materials are locally produced or can be readily imported; and, more recently, close control over these raw materials too has been introduced first by the 1953 Protocol and then by the 1961 Convention, which has outlawed the production, trade and use for non-medical purposes of all narcotic substances including narcotic raw materials.
The striking success of the 1925 and 1931 Conventions, subsequently extended by the 1948 Protocol, created a feeling of confidence that drug abuse could be held in check and ultimately eliminated by strict implementation of the 1961 Convention, subject to the proviso that in certain parts of the world some non-medical uses of narcotic substances, which it would be impracticable to terminate immediately, should be eliminated within a prescribed period.
This feeling of confidence encouraged the view in some quarters that a legal-administrative approach based on prohibition and punishment would not only check the illicit traffic but would also lead to the eradication of drug dependence. Drug abuse was in general treated as a crime and the drug-dependent person as a criminal. Defensive strategy was mainly directed towards control of production and distribution of drugs and the suppression of illicit traffic; and relatively few efforts were devoted to the treatment and rehabilitation of those already dependent and of educational measures to counteract the spread of abuse.5
Document E/OB/22, para. 33-38 and document E/OB/23-E/DSB/25, para. 47 and 48.
This optimistic assessment was not borne out by experience, and increased knowledge dispelled the previous misapprehension of the very different motives which actuate the drug-dependent person and the trafficker.
At all levels the trafficker is motivated by material gain, a gain calculated and measured in terms of money; and in planning his transactions he carefully balances his prospective profit against the risk of arrest and possibly severe punishment.
On the other hand, eminent professional opinion holds that persistent abuse of narcotic drugs is often associated with psychic disabilities or socio-economic disadvantage on the part of the user. Whatever the cause the dependent person's demand is not of the kind to which the laws of the free-market economy apply. It is a craving that has to be satisfied whatever the price, including the risk of conflict with the law.
The basic differences between the personalities of the drug-dependent person and the non-dependent trafficker obviously call for the application of different means to restrain their activities and this view is gaining ground in countries where there is a serious degree of drug abuse. There is in some countries a discernible shift from the punitive method of dealing with drug-dependent persons to a psychiatric or other medical approach and to the study of the entire problem using methods of scientific research involving many professional disciplines. This school of thought recognizes that the treatment of drug-dependent persons requires the use of specialized techniques adapted to different types of dependence and different causes of such dependence; and in a few countries different methods are being tested empirically.
The limitation now imposed on remedial action by lack of adequate knowledge would be eased if more active support could be provided from public or private sources towards the extension of research facilities and trained personnel. There is in fact in a number of countries a gratifying spread of research into various aspects of the phenomenon of drug dependence and there can be no doubt that in due season this public-spirited work will yield valuable data which will help to determine the future patterns of preventive and redemptive measures. What is needed at the moment is a means of collecting, collating and interpreting the results of the research, of stimulating further research in sectors where it is most urgently needed and of making the fruits of these investigations more readily available to those concerned with the upbringing of the younger generation and with the emergence of a public conscience in these matters.2
Documents E/OB/20, para. 32 and E/OB/22, para. 95, 96 and 97.3
See Statement of the representative of the World Health Organization at the 22nd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (document E/4455, para. 303).