Report of the International Narcotics Control Board on its work in 1970

Sections

Current outlook
Opium
Cannabis
Coca leaf
Special cases
Remedial measures

Details

Pages: 31 to 36
Creation Date: 1971/01/01

Report of the International Narcotics Control Board on its work in 1970

The following are excerpts from the 1970 Report of the Board * of which the Economic and Social Council took note at its fiftieth session in May 1971

Current outlook

Any assessment of the present degree of drug abuse throughout the world must conclude that the gravity of the situation has deepened during the year. Misuse of narcotic and other dangerous substances has escalated sharply in a number of countries and the outlook is profoundly disquieting.

Escalation has been most marked in respect of cannabis. The volume of consumption has climbed steeply, particularly among the younger generation.

The international illicit movement of cannabis has advanced correspondingly and there have been numerous seizures including some of large consignments. Moreover, countries which could hitherto claim immunity now acknowledge a growing problem. This applies not only to certain economically advanced countries but also to some which are still in process of development.

While progression from cannabis to heroin is not inevitable, there is evidence that numbers of heroin consumers in certain countries have begun with cannabis.

Transition is also known to occur from cannabis to other psychotropic substances including LSD. The abuse of these substances, notably by young people, sometimes tends to take the form of a pseudo-culture, even a pursuit of mysticism.

But, for many, .the ultimate progression is still to heroin, as is demonstrated in more than one country. In some areas, indeed, the mortality rate among heroin users is already high and is tending to increase.

A phenomenon of particular concern to the Board is the growing tendency in certain countries, where there is long-standing non-medical consumption of opium, for consumers to turn from opium to heroin, thereby greatly aggravating the already serious problems confronting the national authorities.

* E/INCB/9.

More generally, evidence is accumulating that in a number of countries, concurrently with the present extensive use of stimulants and depressants for therapeutic purposes, there has developed a considerable misuse of the more potent of these substances. Such misuse often exists alongside cannabis abuse, the choice depending on whichever substance is more readily available.

Such variations on the general theme re-emphasize what has always been the case, namely that there is in fact no single drug abuse problem; that the phenomenon of abuse varies in kind and degree from area to area, from group to group, and that within each area or group it may fluctuate in pattern and intensity from time to time.

Opium

The main focus of international control, whether directed to licit or illicit transactions, still centres on this most important of all narcotic raw materials.

Licit production

Extensive cultivation of the opium poppy continues to be needed for the manufacture of morphine (163 tons manufactured in 1969 - 105 tons from opium and 58 tons from poppy straw) and of codeine, into which some 90 per cent of all morphine is converted.

With the extension of medical services throughout the world the demand for codeine can be expected to grow and this will entail a parallel expansion of poppy cultivation until such time as an economic synthetic substitute for codeine can be evolved and found generally acceptable.

Licit manufacture is supplied mainly by opium, but partly also by poppy straw, which is much less liable to abstraction for illicit purposes, the choice being determined by climatic and economic factors, including especially the availability of cheap labour.

Latest available figures of licit opium production are: 1

Opium containing 10 percent moisture

Tons

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

754 671 662 815 1,219

The treaties do not require Governments to supply figures of poppy straw production. The quantities of such production used for the manufacture of narcotic drugs are:

Tons

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

21,914 23,432 27,401 30,321 28,274

The average yields of morphine obtained from opium and poppy straw respectively in this five-year period were:

Yields of morphine obtained from

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

Opium (%)
10.30 10.60 10.00 10.20 9.70
Poppy straw (%)
0.16 0.14 0.17 0.20 0.20

India is by far the largest producer and exporter (868 tons and 602 tons respectively in 1969) of opium for licit manufacture. The USSR, though a large producer (217 tons in 1969), relies increasingly on poppy straw. Both countries have exemplary narcotic control systems and can claim a high degree of immunity from pilferage.

The third largest producer is Turkey, whose reported licit production in 1969 was 117 tons. The Government is pursuing a programme of intensified controls aimed at eliminating possibilities of leakage.

Iran resumed production in 1969; during that year 7.8 tons were produced and consumed.

Pakistan production is limited to its internal need for medical and quasi-medical consumption. In the last five years, the quantities consumed annually have varied between 5.5tons and 7.5 tons.

Japan and Yugoslavia have a residual production.

Opium is also licitly produced for non-medical consumption in Burma in the Shan States east of the Salween river, but the authorities have not been able to ascertain the volume of production and consumption.

1. For additional details on the production and manufacture of narcotic drugs, see the Statistics on Narcotic Drugs for 1969 published by the Board (United Nations document E/INCB/11).

It is in the nature of illicit traffickers to seek supplies wherever and whenever they can be obtained, and as controls are tightened in one area the traffickers turn their attention to others which then seem to offer more loopholes. For this reason the Board has always pressed for adoption of a common high standard of control in all areas of licit production. With the same thought in mind it has also consistently deprecated the extension of licit production to countries whose ability to ensure the requisite tightness of control is in doubt by reason of lack of experience or of trained personnel.

Until control systems in all countries of licit poppy cultivation are brought to maximum efficiency, leakages will continue to nourish the illicit traffic.

Illicit and uncontrolled production

Yet even if leakages from licit production could be virtually extinguished smugglers would still be able to have recourse to opium which is produced illegally or beyond government control. There are now extensive areas of such production and it is essential that, side by side with reinforcing monopoly controls over licit production, major efforts should be made to eliminate poppy cultivation in these areas.

As has been explained in some detail in earlier reports of the Board and its predecessor body 2 the regions chiefly involved are situated in Afghanistan, Burma, Laos and Thailand; and there is also some production in parts of Latin America. The former group is of greater significance than the latter and further reference to these countries will be found under "special cases" below.

Cannabis

Cannabis continues to occupy a prominent place in all discussion - professional and lay, serious and casual - on the subject of drug abuse. Much of the public debate is clouded by misunderstanding arising from the wide variation in quality of the material consumed as cannabis by different people in different places. As an agricultural product the quality of cannabis varies inevitably with several factors: soil, climate, method of cultivation; manner of treatment, of storage and of handling during transit; and degree of purity when offered for sale. All these factors differ widely from one region to another and there are correspondingly wide differences in the quality of the end product.

Moreover, it appears in a number of forms and descriptions - for example, hashish, marihuana, charas, ganja, bhang, kif and yamba - which are differently interpreted by different people.

2. Report of the Permanent Central Narcotics Board for 1966, paras. 66 to 86 (United Nations document E/OB/22) and Report of the Board for 1969, paras. 41 to 51 (United Nations document E/ INCB/5).

The toxicity varies considerably also from the part of the plant from which the substance is taken, the resin which exudes from the flowering or fruiting top of the plant being by far the most potent. The range of differences in potency is extensive, and the effect on the individual may vary from one person to another. It is not surprising therefore that conflicting views should be held on the degree of danger attaching to its consumption.

Unfortunately, however, the resultant dubiety of public opinion fails to provide a corrective to heedless attitudes; and these arise more readily in countries where partaking of cannabis is a relatively novel experience than in countries such as India which has had centuries of acquaintance with this substance and is alert to its dangers to the individual and to society.

As a consequence, the widespread, almost epidemic, resort to indulgence in cannabis in recent years is now growing apace; and it is causing grave concern to national administrations and international bodies, including the Board. In the United States of America it is said to involve millions of persons; the International Criminal Police Organization (lnterpol) has reported a "tremendous upsurge" in the misuse of cannabis in Europe as trafficking has become more organized; and disquieting increases are also reported from other parts of the world.

There is wide recognition of the importance of maintaining current restraints on the movement and possession of cannabis, both because of its own inherent dangers and because its misuse is believed to afford a breeding-ground for resort to other dangerous drugs. But measures of restraint, even if intensified in all the countries concerned, cannot suffice to check the present alarming spread of misuse unless they are reinforced by a powerful body of public opinion; and such support can only be mobilized if the public is provided with clear, authoritative evidence of the true nature and degree of the detrimental effects of this misuse.

The Board accordingly renews the plea expressed in its last annual report for more intensive research and for the widest possible dissemination of the facts so revealed.

Coca leaf

Cultivation of the coca bush is now confined to the Andean regions of the South American continent. Accurate figures of the quantities harvested and marketed have long eluded the Board and it is still impossible to arrive at an even approximately realistic assessment.

Reported statistics are as follows:

 

Tons

Production of coca leaves

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

Bolivia
unreported
5,277 5,058 4,203 4,860
Peru
9,077 9,092 8,505 8,756 9,742

Total actual production is probably far in excess of these figures. There is also extensive wild growth, though this does not appear to be much sought after by consumers.

Some part of the production - but only a small fraction of even the declared output - is utilized for flavouring agents (after extraction of the cocaine content), which is then available for licit use. The great bulk of the coca leaf produced is chewed by the indigenous population as an indulgence or to still the pangs of hunger; but some is clandestinely converted into crude cocaine which is illicitly exported, chiefly to North America.

The deleterious effect of habitual chewing of coca leaf is recognized by the local public health authorities; and the Board is relieved to know that to a greater or lesser degree the Governments of the countries mainly concerned - Peru, Bolivia and Argentina - are endeavouring to wean the population from this practice and in the meantime to diminish the quantities available.

Conversion into crude cocaine for the illicit market is a matter of international concern and an obligation rests on the Governments of the principal producing countries - Bolivia and Peru - o do their utmost to extinguish this traffic.

Special cases

Afghanistan

The Board continues to be much exercised about the drug situation in Afghanistan. Opium production is forbidden by the Afghan Government, yet the reported outflow of opium into adjoining areas indicates that the ban is not enforced, perhaps by reason of the handicaps imposed on the Government by poor communications and other factors deriving from the present under-developed state of the country. There seems also to be an abundant supply of cannabis.

The ready availability of these two sought-after drugs inevitably attracts numbers of smugglers and the illicit traffic so engendered is not only an embarrassment to neighbouring Governments but is a matter of deep concern to countries farther afield.

Remedies will not be easy. Underlying social and economic factors of the kind and degree now existing in Afghanistan present formidable difficulties; and the Government will need substantial external aid if it is to be enabled to bring the situation under control.

Burma

There is fairly extensive illicit traffic in Burma, particularly east of the Salween River converging on the borders of Laos and Thailand. This area is at present virtually beyond the control of the Government; and suppression of the traffic is further hampered by lack of communications and by the fact that opium has been the sole cash crop of the inhabitants for nearly two centuries.

The Government hopes that some reduction in the traffic may result from regional development programmes especially in the Districts of Kunlong and Kengtun. The beneficial results of such programmes could well be enhanced if the Government were to invite participation by a United Nations Study Group and the Board trusts the Government will see its way to do this.

Iran

In taking note of Iran's decision in 1969 to resume poppy cultivation to the extent necessary to satisfy its own internal demand, the Board expressed disappointment at the Government's abandonment of its courageous policy of prohibition which it had pursued over a period of thirteen years. The Board's report for that year listed a number of control measures which ought to accompany this radical change of policy if the quantum of opium production was to be contained within the limits then set by the Government. Official reports since received from Iran indicate that controls have been applied to poppy cultivation, that steps are being taken to provide treatment and rehabilitation of addicts and that stern punishment has been meted out to convicted traffickers.

While these measures demonstrate the Government's positive intentions to keep opium production and consumption within reasonable bounds they have not allayed the anxiety felt by the Board over the serious risks involved in the new policy; and their concern is now deepened by reports that authorized poppy cultivation is to be markedly increased in 1971. The estimated area of cultivation for that year is 12,000 hectares, which is about double the area so cultivated in 1970. So great an increase will obviously make control much more difficult and will intensify the risk of further abusive consumption of opium within Iran and of leakage into the illicit traffic - more particularly since cultivation is spread over an increasing number of provinces.

Simple prudence suggests that authorized cultivation should be concentrated so that it can be effectively supervised.

Laos

The legislative authorities of Laos are reported to be actively considering a draft law to prohibit poppy cultivation. The Board will welcome its early enactment. Another useful step would be for the Government to ratify the 1961 Convention. What is of chief importance is that the provisions of both should begin to be applied as soon as possible.

Nepal

The Board has long sought to establish links with the Government of Nepal to ensure its continuous collaboration in international narcotics control, and this desire has latterly been greatly strengthened by disquieting reports of heavy illicit traffic from that country, especially in cannabis. It seems that, lacking the administrative resources available to economically more advanced countries, the Government has sought to meet the problem by requiring cultivators of cannabis to be licensed and by imposing a tax on the quantities produced. These devices, however, have not sufficed to curb the outflow into India, and through India to other countries. The traffic is particularly embarrassing to the Government of India, which is applying a policy of progressive elimination of non-medical consumption of cannabis within its territory; it is also a matter for serious concern in other countries.

There are also reports that opium is produced in Nepal and finds its way into illicit channels.

The Board is ready to render such advice as the Government may wish to have in striving to remedy this situation; and it suggests that an essential first step is for Nepal to become a Party to the 1961 Convention and apply the provisions of that treaty.

Thailand

This country has several claims to world attention. Not only is there considerable local uncontrolled production of opium, it also attracts additional supplies from Burma and Laos. Much of this is converted into morphine and heroin, mainly for local consumption, though some flows into international illicit channels.

The Board's continuing anxiety over the situation in Thailand is somewhat mitigated by the knowledge that its concern is shared by the Government and that the assistance of the United Nations has been enlisted in devising and applying remedial measures. The aim of these joint endeavours is to raise the present low standard of living by diversifying the agricultural economy and in particular to replace poppy cultivation by substitute crops yielding a cash income.

Until these measures have proved their worth, anxiety must remain for two grave reasons: namely, because the traditional consumption of opium in Thailand has widely given place to heroin addiction; and because of the ever-present danger of the country becoming a major centre of international illicit traffic. Already there are signs that the Board's apprehensions in this latter respect are well-grounded and that international illicit traffickers are turning their attention to South-East Asia as their accustomed sources of supply in the Mediterranean region and in the Near East begin to be narrowed.

Turkey

In recent years the Board has commented on sucessive government measures designed to reduce the possibilities of leakage of opium from authorized production into the illicit traffic, in particular by reduction of the area under poppy cultivation and by concentrating such cultivation in central regions distant from land frontiers. Between 1964 and 1970 the number of provinces (governorates) where opium production is authorized has been reduced from 25 to 7. This has had a visibly beneficial effect. Over the period 1964-1969 the declared yield per hectare has risen from 3 kg to 9.8 kg. Though the latter figure cannot be regarded as an optimum yield it nevertheless represents a certain improvement in efficiency of control. But the utmost vigilance will clearly be needed to consolidate the improvement so far effected; and further safeguards are evidently and urgently necessary.

Another useful step forward is in prospect in the draft law now before Parliament, whereby individual cultivators are to be licensed. The Board hopes that this will soon be brought into operation and that it will be accompanied by regulations withholding licences from cultivators whose output falls below a prescribed standard.

Lebanon

The Lebanese Government is pressing on with its Green Plan for replacing cannabis cultivation by other crops. The Government reports that some 4,500 hectares have been turned over to sunflower and it hopes ultimately to eliminate cannabis altogether. The achievement of this goal should continue to be actively encouraged and it deserves all the support and practical aid which can be given from international sources.

Recent heavy seizures of illicit consignments of cannabis, however, illustrate the difficulties which are presented to a campaign of this kind by the activities of determined and resourceful smugglers and they show that the measures which have so far been taken fall materially short of what is needed. The Board earnestly hopes that the Government will renew and strengthen its vigilance with a view to repairing the evident breaches in its system of controls.

Bolivia

In the absence of official reports from the competent national authorities the Board is unable to judge what progress, if any, has been made towards implementing the formal Agreements entered into with the Permanent Central Narcotics Board during successive missions to Bolivia in 1964 and 1966, whereby the Government undertook to embark on a positive programme designed to bring about the ultimate elimination of production and chewing of coca leaves. The Government must surely agree that this is essential for the health and welfare of the Bolivian people. Early steps in this direction are also urgently necessary from the international standpoint, because of the persistent outflow of crude cocaine into illicit channels.

The Board looks to the Government to fulfil its undertakings of 1964 and 1966 and it hopes it may now receive regular reports from the relevant authorities showing in detail what changes are being introduced and how far they are proving successful.

Peru

In its report for 1966 the Permanent Central Board commented at length on the problems associated with imposing restraints on coca-bush cultivation and the abusive consumption of coca leaf within Peru. The fact that these problems are deep-seated and are not susceptible of ready solution makes it the more imperative that the efforts to overcome them should be resolute and unremitting.

However earnest may be the intentions of the Government in facing this challenge the uncomfortable truth is that, in practical terms, the situation has undergone little change in the last five years. There is still massive production; large quantities of coca leaves are still masticated by the indigenous population; and there are constant reports that a substantial volume of crude cocaine emanating from the Andean region of South America finds its way into the international illicit traffic.

The recent tragic earthquake commands general sympathy and the Board realizes that, for the time being, rehabilitation in the devastated areas must have a prior claim on the country's economic resources. Nevertheless coca-chewing remains a socio-medical problem of such importance as to demand a prominent place in government thinking. Much more intensive and sustained efforts are evidently required if a solution is eventually to be found.

The authorities now propose to incorporate coca restrictions in the current plan for general agrarian reform. What is urgently needed is for such restrictions to be brought as soon as possible into practical effect.

Ecuador

Recent administrative changes have moderated the serious misgivings which the Board has had for many years regarding controls in Ecuador and which it has expressed in correspondence with the Government and in its periodic reports. A new law has been introduced and the authorities are now in process of centralizing the narcotics control services and strengthening them with trained medical and administrative personnel. The Board gladly acceded to the Government's request

to send a three-week mission in May 1970 to provide advisory assistance and to take a prominent share in a series of training lectures.

This welcome change owes much to the personal intervention of the President of Ecuador, who expressed to the Board's mission his determination to check drug abuse and illicit traffic in his country. The Board will continue to do all it can to assist the Government in bringing its new policy to fulfilment.

Costa Rica

The national authorities are developing a comendably realistic approach to the prevention of drug abuse in this country. In addition to strengthening the narcotics enforcement staff they are invoking participation by other disciplines, including especially those of education, social welfare and public health. This is an exemplary move and the Board will follow its progress with great interest.

Remedial measures

The subject of illicit and uncontrolled production has been much in the mind of the Board for many years and has figured prominently in successive annual reports; for whatever success may be won in stemming the sources from which the illicit traffic now draws its supplies, the existence of this vast reservoir of raw materials poses a continual threat which must somehow be dispelled.

The production includes all three categories of raw material-opium, coca and cannabis-and there is continuing evidence that substantial quantities of each are finding their way into the illicit traffic. This is particularly true of cannabis, of which an increasing volume is being drawn from several sources, some of which are relatively new. The outflow of crude cocaine seems also to be growing; and there are signs that illicit traffickers in opium and opiates are turning their eyes to areas where there is little or no control over poppy cultivation. All this merely confirms the misgivings long felt by the Board.

On the other hand it is a considerable gain that the serious implications of the continuance of illicit and uncontrolled production are now internationally recognized. Adoption in December 1968 of United Nations General Assembly resolution 2434 (XXIII), which invites the specialized agencies to co-operate with the other bodies concerned in devising ways and means to eliminate this production, was a valuable first step and it is already having positive results. One such result is that experimental economic measures are now being introduced in Thailand with the co-operation of the Government. The seeds of genuine promise lie in this realistic and practical scheme and it is to be hoped firstly that it will succeed and that it will then lead on to parallel endeavours in other areas.

The Board remains convinced that a global approach is essential for the ultimate elimination of illicit and uncontrolled production of narcotic raw materials; and it trusts that, given success in such pilot schemes as are to be initiated, it may be possible to proceed to formulation of an over-all plan. Meanwhile close observation will continue to be necessary to guard against untoward developments in other regions.

The immensity of the task is self-evident, as are also the handicaps imposed by the geographical remoteness and economic twilight of some of the regions principally concerned-handicaps which the Board has repeatedly outlined in its annual reports, 3more especially in the report for 1966. Stated in the briefest terms, what is involved is a series of radical changes in the economic and social way of life of large numbers of people, including the development of roads and other communications and assistance to the Governments in providing themselves with the means of administrative control. The very fact that the difficulties are so formidable and so deep-seated makes it all the more necessary to embark as soon as possible on the over-all plan and thenceforward to prosecute it with vigour and determination.

As evidence of the urgent need for these economic reforms it is only necessary to repeat that, on the best evidence available to the Board, the total annual production of opium in these areas can be conservatively estimated at more than 1,200 tons, while that of coca leaf is certainly not less than 13,000 tons.

Where production is under governmental control the closing of loopholes is mainly a matter of improving administrative efficiency and success should be achievable within a relatively short period. Where, however, it exists in defiance of government edict or by reason of fundamental economic handicaps, it would be unrealistic to look for progress except over many years and as a result of united effort comprehensively planned and adequately equipped.

3. Report of the Permanent Central Narcotics Board for 1966, paras. 57 to 125 (United Nations document E/OB/22); Final Report of the Permanent Central Narcotics Board and the Drug Supervisory Body, November 1967, paras. 165 to 169 and 173 to 176 (United Nations document E/OB/23-E/DSB/25); First Report of the Board, November 1968, paras. 74 and 75, 87 and 88, 91 to 93 (United Nations document E/INCB/1); Report of the Board for 1969, paras. 41 to 83 (United Nations document E/ INCB/5).