Report of the International Narcotics Control Board on its work in 1973
Measures adopted by national authorities in respect of drug control
REPUBLIC OF VIET-NAM
SOUTH AMERICAN MISSION
EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Pages: 31 to 39
Creation Date: 1974/01/01
The following are excerpts from the 1973 Report of the Board * to the Economic and Social Council at its fifty-sixth session
Illicit production and distribution of dangerous drugs for non-medical consumption are effected through a series of transactions involving a number of countries, but the problems thereby created for the governments concerned are peculiar to each country and national counter-measures are naturally determined by the prevailing local circumstances.
A brief summary is appended of the curent situation in countries or territories where the problems of drug abuse, or illicit traffic or uncontrolled production of raw materials, are most prominent and of the measures taken to meet these problems.
The opium poppy grows freely in parts of Afghanistan and its cultivation has figured in the agricultural economy for generations. Originally production was mostly for domestic consumption but there seems also to have been some long-standing export to adjoining regions, though probably in limited quantities owing to the restriction imposed on the movement of men and goods by the nature of the terrain. As transport facilities improved in the post-war period it was clear that illicit traffickers would turn increasingly to this potential source of supply as a consequence of the progressive curtailment of opium production in Turkey; and this possibility was enhanced by the considerable inflow of foreign tourists seeking cannabis, which is readily available in its more potent forms in this part of South Central Asia.
Following its frequent expressions of concern the Board was invited to send representatives to Kabul in January 1973 to review the situation at first-hand in consultation with the Government. The mission was given a frank and cordial reception by senior ministers, including the Prime Minister, and was enabled to have full discussions with the principal administrative officers concerned with the several aspects of the problem. These exchanges confirmed the general impressions previously gathered by the Board: the central Government recognizes the damaging consequences, international and domestic, of the present scale of contraband traffic in Afghanistan but lacks sufficient financial and administrative resources to institute effective counter measures. Co-operation with resident and visiting representatives of international bodies is proceeding and, following a number of missions to Afghanistan between September 1972 and September 1973, some headway is reported to have been made in strengthening means of law enforcement. Discussions are also in process between the Government and representatives of the United Nations and of the Food and Agriculture Organization with a view to initiating projects for crop substitution and community development. Meanwhile the Government is taking action against illicit traffickers and this has resulted in significant seizures of contraband.
* E/INCB/21, United Nation Puplication Sales No. E.74.XI.2.
The sum of these activities constitutes a welcome creative approach but the tasks still to be accomplished are heavy and complex and appreciable over-all progress cannot be looked for without external aid, some of which could well be bilateral. In the opinion of the Government the most acutely difficult part of the problem is presented by the remote, and seasonally inaccessible, north-eastern province of Badakhshan.
Some check to fulfilment of the plans so far outlined seemed to likely result from the recent political changes, but the Board has since been advised on good authority that the new régime can be expected to be no less co-operative than its predecessor.
This is reassuring as far as it goes, but much more is required: a strenuous, uphill road lies ahead; and vigorous efforts, coupled with great tenacity of purpose on the part of all concerned, will be necessary if the present streams of dangerous raw materials-opium and cannabis-into international illicit channels are first to be stemmed and ultimately eliminated.
The Government continues to give proof of its readiness to co-operate in the international drug control system and to comply with all the provisions of the 1961 Convention which it ratified in 1972. Since poppy cultivation was resumed in 1969 it has been restricted to production of opium for domestic consumption and the area is annually regulated by reference to the quantity of opium in stock. The decision to reduce the area from 20,000 to 2,000 hectares was duly fulfilled and the area actually producing opium in 1973 was 2,250 hectares. At the same time the number of producing provinces was reduced from 19 to 14. Control over production is exercised by the Government Monopoly and the Board has so far received no indication of diversion to illegitimate purposes.
Registration of addicts is gradually being extended, rising from 110,000 to nearly 118,000 in 1973, but it is still far from complete and the Government estimates that the true total may be twice the latter figure. Most of them consume opium; nevertheless heroin addiction persists and there seems also to be some resort to psychotropic substances, mainly barbiturates, either in association with or in substitution for opiates.
Treatment and rehabilitation of addicts is likewise being pursued and nearly eleven thousand persons are reported to have been treated in 1972; but this number merely reflects the capacity of the present treatment centres and does not reveal the full dimensions of the need. Pending completion of the additional hospitals now under construction full use might be made of experience, obtainable through the United Nations Organization, in redemptive methods requiring less staff and accommodation which have been applied with some success in Hong Kong.
The frequent contraband seizures bear witness to commendable activity on the part of the preventive forces, but they also show that illicit traffic continues at a high level. All but five per cent of the consignments of opium seized in 1972 came from the east of the country; and most of the persons arrested also carried small quantities of cannabis.
By the courtesy of the Government the Board's mission to Afghanistan in January 1973, was enabled at the same time to visit Teheran to confer with ministers and high officials and with members of international organizations stationed in Iran regarding national and regional measures to bring the situation under effective control. The evidence is encouraging.
A broadly-conceived campaign of economic improvement is being prosecuted and much has already been achieved; yet much still remains to be done. As in all countries where opium consumption is traditional its elimination is bound to be a long and complicated process, necessitating inter alia a comprehensive improvement in the rural way of life. Iran has already made substantial progress in this direction as well as in the diversification of agriculture and the experience gained thereby could be of service to other countries where similar programmes of economic reform are still at an early stage.
An effective instrument for such exchange of experience and for continuing co-operation between the Governments of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey is the Ad Hoc Committee set up by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and now transmuted into the Sub-Commission on Illicit Traffic for the Near and Middle East. In particular it is to be hoped that this body will be able to find speedy means of checking the east-west flow of contraband opium and cannabis across this region, which is now causing widespread concern to governments and the general public in many countries.
Government policies in respect of dangerous drugs have always closely matched those followed by its neighbour India and they derive from the same traditional attitudes of official restraint supported by public disapprobation of abusive indulgence in these substances. In recent years, however, the situation has been complicated by the heightened significance acquired by uncontrolled poppy cultivation within and beyond the north-western frontiers of Pakistan and by the considerable flow of potent forms of cannabis from the same general region. As has been recognized in earlier reports of the Board the authorities were conscious of the implications which these developments have for Pakistan and they have endeavoured to modernize and reinvigorate their apparatus of controls. They also realized the importance of co-operation with their counterparts in adjoining countries and they were represented in the Ad Hoc Committee which has now become the Sub-Commission on Illicit Traffic in the Near and Middle East. But the preventive forces have hitherto been hampered by lack of adequate sea and land transport and other essential equipment and the country's strained finances would not enable the deficiency to be supplied without substantial external aid.
The deficiency is now within sight of being remedied. Fortified by assurances of substantial material and financial aid from the United States and with continuing access to expert guidance from the organizations of the United Nations family the Government has embarked on a radical reconstruction of its narcotics control administration, which is being given new leadership and substantial budgetary resources. Among other reforms, an intelligence system is being set up, the preventive forces are to receive modern equipment and the penal sections of the law are to be strengthened.
As a further measure of reform the progressive abolition of poppy cultivation which it is hoped will be completed in the near future is to be accompanied by reorganization of the agricultural economy in the affected areas. At the same time the quasi-medical consumption of opium, which is still substantial, will be eliminated through extension of the national health service; and medical treatment and rehabilitation are planned for those who have become dependent on drugs.
The President of Pakistan has publicly proclaimed the country's determination to succeed in carrying through this ambitious programme and has reaffirmed his Government's readiness to co-operate with the international community in rooting out the social evil of drug addiction. Public opinion which is naturally inclined to favour such a policy is to be mobilized in its support with a view to ostracizing contraband dealers and their associates.
Neither the President in his public declaration of the programme of reforms, nor the new head of the narcotics administration in his discussion with the Board during its autumn session in Geneva, is under any illusion as to the magnitude of the tasks which are being undertaken, particularly in suppressing, in those parts of the country where the government's authority is less than absolute and economic conditions are relatively low, a contraband traffic which carries high financial rewards.
The Government will need and should have every support and encouragement in bringing its programme to fulfilment.
In 1973,... there was no authorized production of opium: the culmination of the Government's recently adopted policy of progressive reduction of output. The passing of the decree of 29 June 1971 was an historic action, connoting as it did not only the termination of the Government Opium Monopoly established in 1933 but also the abandonment of an agricultural crop which has been cultivated in this country for centuries. * It has been followed up by the inauguration of a multi-project development plan designed to raise the economic and social level of the region where poppy planting has been prohibited. The plan covers various aspects of agriculture, animal husbandry and rural industry and provides also for additional irrigation and the improvement of roads and other public services. While some of the projects are short-term others are scheduled to extend over five years. The fact that budgetary provision has been made and that where necessary construction contracts have already been signed offers assurance that the programme will be duly fulfilled. In the meantime, and until they have found new means of livelihood, former opium farmers are to be indemnified for the loss of earnings from this source and... the rate of compensation is calculated on the basis of the total quantity of opium delivered to the monopoly within the last two years .... In discussion with the Board's mission to Turkey in January 1972 the heads of the relevant departments were confident that the ban can be consistently enforced. Whether or not this confidence is well-founded it is clear that the Government has embarked on an arduous programme in which it will need a generous measure of encouragement and practical help over a long period. Weaning a conservative peasantry away from a form of agriculture so deeply rooted in tradition is in any circumstances a considerable undertaking; when the traditional product commands a high price in the illicit market and the illicit traffickers are numerous, ingenious and persistent the task becomes monumental; and it is only achievable by thoroughgoing changes in the existing patterns of agriculture. Each of these changes will of course be exposed to the hazards, normal and abnormal, which continually beset agriculture in all countries, so that those entrusted with the reforms can hardly escape a long series of frustrations and disappointments. The Government, however, is undaunted by the prospect, and is committed to a policy of firmness and vigilance. Vigilance will in fact be necessary on all fronts. So long as any substantial possibility of clandestine poppy cultivation remains the gendarmerie will need to maintain a country-wide lookout for hoards of opium, since the opium poppy can be grown in 20 or more provinces. Moreover, there is a persistent risk of Turkey becoming a highway for illicit traffic in cannabis and morphine base moving across the country into Europe from sources beyond the frontiers of Turkey, and all the national preventive forces will be required to join with their counterparts in other countries in the Near and Middle East in suppressing this traffic.
* The Board's Report was published in January 1974 before the recent decision of the Turkish Government.
In a recent announcement by the Prime Minister the Government of Nepal declared its intention to prohibit both the cultivation of the opium poppy and the cannabis plant and the export of opium and cannabis. Legislation is to be introduced to this effect and measures are to be devised to assist farmers adversely affected by the bans. This is a welcome initiative and it will be particularly welcome to India, whose programme of gradual elimination of non-medical consumption of cannabis has been hampered by a heavy inflow of the drug in its several forms from Nepal in recent years.
By what means the new legislation is to be enforced has not yet been made clear. The task will be far from easy. The area of cultivation is extensive; the terrain is unfavourable to vehicular movement; the frontier with India is long and open, offering little impediment to smugglers; and the financial rewards of smuggling are large.
The Government has of its own accord sought technical assistance from the United Nations, first in drafting appropriate legislation and more recently in designing consequential measures such as crop substitution. In so doing it has demonstrated its resolve to make its new policy effective; but it would be unrealistic to suppose that success is attainable except by long, sustained effort over a number of years, having regard to the lure of easy gains which the natural facilities for smuggling in this region hold out to a farming population little above subsistence level.
Opium has been produced in this part of South-East Asia for generations, but at first this production had little more than local significance, being mainly for consumption by the producers themselves as a household remedy for natural ailments such as intestinal disorders. As time passed some of it began to find its way into illicit channels, despite the difficulties of transport in what was then for the most part an undeveloped and sparsely inhabited region of hill and forest.
In recent times, however, the area surrounding the conjunction of the frontiers of these three countries has become a major source of illicit supply by reason of a combination of factors including the growing world demand, the shrinking of supplies from Turkey, the presence in this area of guerilla groups supporting themselves from the proceeds of various forms of contraband and the continuing armed conflict in South-East Asia. Not only has the supply of illicit opium been greatly expanded, factories have also sprung up for its conversion into morphine and heroin, which can be carried more easily and with less risk of detection.
The situation is thus compounded of rural poverty, social disturbance and political unrest, as well as individual cupidity and the other usual ingredients of contraband traffic. So complex and deep-seated a problem cannot be easily or quickly resolved. Remedies have to be sought firstly in effective containment by co-ordinated operations of the three national preventive forces, coupled with long-term measures for rural uplift, medical treatment of drug-dependent persons and a rise in the general level of education.
Extensive illicit cultivation of the opium poppy still persists in the Northern part of Thailand as in the adjoining districts of Burma and Laos. Some part of the opium produced in this general region supplies a large addict population in Thailand, but a significant portion is converted into morphine or heroin. Some of this too is locally consumed, but a great deal of both the opium and the morphine and heroin are channelled through Thailand into the international illicit traffic.
Opium poppy cultivation has been illegal in Thailand since 1959, but the difficulty of access and remoteness of this part of Thailand have hampered the national authorities in their efforts to exercise effective control, and the hill tribes who inhabit the area have continued to produce opium both for their own consumption and as a cash crop. Much of it passes to the several insurgent groups operating in this area, who finance themselves from contraband traffic in this opium or in the opiates which they obtain from it.
In endeavouring to discourage poppy cultivation the national authorities have with substantial external assistance, both multilateral and bilateral, been carrying out an important pilot programme of crop substitution. [ 1]
The impression gathered by the Board's mission in July-August 1972 as to the Government's constructive response to the challenge presented by massive illicit traffic within, and more especially immediately beyond, its frontiers have been fully borne out by subsequent events. Since then Burma's preventive forces have intensified their activities and have collaborated with those of Thailand, with encouraging and occasionally spectacular results. At the same time dissident elements in the northerly provinces seem to have been less in evidence, giving hopes of a more favourable outlook for governmental schemes directed to social and economic betterment.
These developments are wholly welcome. On the home front they may be further stimulated by the recent appearance of heroin addiction among certain sectors of the population. Externally they could well open up encouraging perspectives for increased conjoint operations with the preventive forces of Laos and Thailand. From all points of view they deserve to be supported by external aid in whatever form may be acceptable to the Government.
The Government hopes in time to play a due part in programmes for drug abuse control of which the foundations have been laid in Thailand with some initial success; and already, under the direct leadership of the Head of State and with bilateral external aid, it has embarked on its own programme of crop substitution, treatment of addicts and sterner measures against the illicit traffic. To this end it enacted a law in 1971 limiting opium poppy cultivation and prohibiting the manufacture, consumption, sale, purchase and possession of opium and opium derivatives; and in June 1973 it became a Party to the 1961 Convention. In so doing it has firmly established its credentials and qualified itself for further external financial and technical aid in due course.
To swell the distresses occasioned by years of armed conflict this country is now burdened with a large addict population. If as stated by its observer to the twenty-fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, there are now approximately a hundred thousand opium addicts and between eleven and fifteen thousand persons addicted to morphine or heroin the burden is indeed a heavy one.
Effective measures of drug control can hardly be expected until there is much further easement of the present deeply troubled conditions, but so grave a situation clearly should not be allowed to drift indefinitely and the Board hopes that the Government will maintain, and so far as possible increase, the efforts it is making to cope with the problems of drug abuse and illicit traffic.
The geographical situation of Hong Kong makes it almost inevitably an important centre for illicit traffic in opium and opiates from South-East Asia and this activity continues, together with conversion into heroin, despite intensive action by a well-trained preventive force. There is also a substantial local consumption. Heroin remains the chief drug of abuse although opium is still smoked by many elderly addicts. Treatment and rehabilitation centres are maintained and it may be necessary to enlarge their capacity. Research is inter alia proceeding into possibilities of treatment by acupuncture.
Implementation of the cannabis crop substitution project agreed upon between the Government and the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control is shortly to be undertaken with expert assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Organization, and aerial photography has already been carried out during the harvest in September 1973. The Board trusts that completion of this project will both aid and encourage the Lebanese authorities in continuing their efforts to suppress cannabis cultivation and induce the growers to turn to other means of livelihood.
For the time being, however, Lebanon remains a copious source of supply of cannabis and cannabis resin to the international illicit traffic and the Government should therefore intensify its campaign against the traffickers.
Cultivation of the cannabis plant is prohibited, yet illicit cultivation nevertheless persists. Much of the output is sold clandestinely in the local market, but large quantities still find their way into international illicit channels. The Board hopes that the Government will persevere in its efforts to suppress this activity throughout the country. The ban on production will not suffice without additional counter-measures: so long as the demand continues ways and means will always be found to meet it unless the campaign against traffickers is intensified and vigorously pursued.
The Board has long been deeply concerned over the continuing over-abundant cultivation of coca leaves in the Andean region, and the increased quantities of cocaine entering the illicit traffic, and it readily responded to the invitation of the Governments of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia to send an advisory mission to these countries early in 1973.
The mission's chief impression was that there is urgent need for more vigorous and purposeful efforts on the part of the Governments of Bolivia and Peru to restrict the plantations of coca-bush and on the part of all the Governments to co-operate more closely with one another in checking illicit traffic. It found that in practical terms the application of restraints to coca-cultivation in Bolivia and Peru has hardly begun and that there is little or no co-operation between the frontier officials of adjoining countries. The mission felt that more progress would be achieved if in each country there were a clearly defined programme under continuous review by a special body required to submit periodic reports to the Government and to advise on what further action, including legislation, might be necessary from time to time; and if these bodies were to meet at suitable intervals in regional conferences to harmonize their programmes and to devise concerted measures as needed. The Governments could count on advice and practical assistance from United Nations organs in furthering review and reinforcement of the national control mechanisms. The importance of periodic regional conferences was recognized at the conference of South American countries which met in Buenos Aires in 1973 and has agreed to meet again next year, while the value of transfrontier co-operation is too obvious to need to be stressed.
The general low economic level of the population, plus the fact that coca-cultivation is the main source of income of thousands of small farmers impart a high degree of intractability to the problem in Bolivia. The mission found that since the two earlier missions in 1964 and 1966 little progress had been made. Basic legislation and regulations are still lacking and there is an absence of proper co-ordination between the Government departments involved.
Following the present mission, however, the prospect now seems somewhat brighter. The personal interest of the President has been aroused; a national commission has been set up; the law is being reframed. Attention needs to be focused on illicit manufacture of, and traffic in, cocaine; and plans should as soon as possible be drawn up for control of coca plantations and progressive reduction of the crop.
This is a considerable undertaking, beyond the resources of this economically isolated country and external aid will be necessary if it is to be achieved.
Here too the problem is deep-seated and not amenable to other than long-term solution.
During its stay in Lima, the mission was enabled to have a series of discussions with Ministers and senior officials of all the relevant departments of Government: Foreign Affairs, Interior, Agriculture, Health and Industry and Commerce. It seems that studies which have so far been carried out have failed to provide a basis for a constructive programme of remedial measures, so that the hopes of early positive action which were expressed in the Board's annual report for 1972 have not materialized. The mission accordingly recommended further studies with the assistance of experts from the United Nations Organization and a request for such assistance has since been addressed to the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control and is now under consideration.
The gradual improvement in the drug control structure of Ecuador continues. In the course of its visit the mission was told that co-ordination and control of the system is to be vested in a national commission attached to the President's office and that the Commission will include representatives from the Ministries of Public Health, Education, Defence and Interior. It also learned that misuse of cannabis is spreading and that increased quantities of cocaine are entering the illicit traffic. Evidently what is now required is closer collaboration with the preventive forces of adjoining countries in this region.
The main significance of Colombia in respect of drug controls in South America derives from its geographical situation which offers facilities for illicit transit to other countries. At the time of the mission a new law was reported to be before the Congress, providing stiffer penalties for illicit production, trafficking or possession and it is to be hoped that this fresh deterrent will prove of value in checking the movement of contraband across the country.
In the two years which have elapsed since the countries of the European Economic Community agreed to unite their efforts to cope with the drug problem steady progress has been made. Joint action under the several heads of the multi-disciplinary programme adopted at a conference in Rome in October 1972, [ 2] appears already to be showing good results. This is timely, for the dimensions of the problem are expanding. The flow of cannabis into and across Europe is considerable and the size of individual consignments which are seized suggests that the traffickers are optimistic of avoiding detection. There are indications also that heroin is entering Europe from the Far East.
On the other hand the former considerable stream of opiates through Europe to North America seems to have abated.
Still greater vigilance is evidently called for; and still closer co-operation between preventive services. Recent successes against the contraband traffic indicate that transfrontier co-operation is already good and a greater measure of it, particularly at ports of entry, would surely be fruitful.
The Government's vigorous response to the challenge of drug abuse has been more than maintained in the current year. On the home front the central administration has been architected on new lines and given new leadership, both to improve enforcement and extend treatment and rehabilitation; and the pattern of activities in all disciplines, from law enforcement to research,-has been extensively revised.
At the same time bilateral assistance to other countries willing to collaborate in the world campaign against the drug menace and participation in multilateral assistance directed to the same end have been continued and even expanded, though already on a generous scale.
In evidence of the high degree of importance which the Government attaches to this subject the co-ordination of all national measures relating to the "demand" element of the problem,-treatment, rehabilitation, research and education,-has been centred in the White House, while the direction of international measures is in the hands of a special Cabinet Committee under the chairmanship of the Secretary of State.
The momentum thus imparted to the campaign, national and international, is considerable and is having major tangible effects. Even so the President acknowledged in a press conference in September that much further effort is still needed.001
1. For further details see Bulletin on Narcotics, XXVI, 1, pp 43-65.002
2. See Bulletin or Narcotics, XXV, 2, pp. 4-6