Evolution in 1951 of National Legislations on Narcotics




Pages: 44 to 47
Creation Date: 1953/01/01


Evolution in 1951 of National Legislations on Narcotics

The Secretary-General regularly issues an Annual Summary of Laws and Regulations relating to the Control of Narcotic Drugs. The last summary1 which will be published early in 1953 is based on current legislation enacted before 1 March 1952 and included in official communications received by the Secretariat between 1 June 1951 and 31 May 1952.

The legislation under consideration shows, in general, the .same trends as could be observed in earlier years. Such factors as the international narcotics treaties and new scientific developments continue to dictate the course of governmental action and contribute to an ever-increasing similarity of national legislations in the field. The dependence of national legislation on international action is indicated by references to decisions of international organs placing new drugs under control or exempting preparations from control. It seems also that governments pay increasing attention to the detection, cure and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

In view of the numerous implications of narcotics control, often falling within the jurisdiction of several national government departments, interdepartmental co-ordinating and advisory committees on narcotic drugs have been set up in several countries.

Much of the recent amending legislation represents again an effort to control newly-developed synthetic substances, which continue to increase in number.


For the period between June 1951 and June 1952, the following changes took place in the field of international control regarding accessions, acceptances and extension of territorial application.

Israel, on 16 May 1952, acceded to the following instruments as amended by the Protocol of 11 December 1946: The International Opium Convention of 19 February 1925, the Convention of 13 July 1931 for limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs and the Convention of 26 June 1936 for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs and also accepted the Protocol signed at Paris on 19 November 1948 bringing under international control drugs outside the scope of the Convention of 13 July 1931 as amended by the Protocol of 11 December 1946.

1 See document E/NL.1951/Summary

Japan, on 27 March 1952, accepted the Protocol of 11 December 1946 amending the international instruments on narcotic drugs and on 5 May 1952 the Paris Protocol of 19 November 1948.

Cambodia, on 3 October 1951, and Laos, on 13 July 1951, acceded to the Convention of 26 June 1936 for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs.

Belgium, on 21 November 1951, accepted the Paris Protocol of 19 November 1948.

The United Kingdom, on 13 February 1952, extended to Basutoland, Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland the Convention of 13 July 1931 for limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs.

The Secretary-General was informed of the transfer by the French Government to the Government of Cambodia of the duties and obligations arising from international sanitary conventions and was asked to note in particular the substitution of Cambodia for France in so far as concerns the application in Cambodia of the following five instruments on international narcotics control: 1912 Convention, 1925 Agreement, 1925 Convention, 1931 Convention, and 1931 Agreement.

It was reported that while the 1936 Convention has not yet been applied in Trinidad and Tobago all the offences specified in article 2 thereof are punishable in the territory.

The Government of Italy reported that the rules of the international conventions are applied in the Trust Territory of Somaliland.

The Government of the United States of America stated that the international regulations relating to narcotics are followed in practice in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

The Economic and Social Council, at its fourteenth session, noting that the use of synthetic narcotic drugs was developing rapidly, drew the attention of governments in particular to the desirability, should they not already have done so, of bringing all synthetic drugs under their national legislation as soon as they appear, and of making regulations to ensure that all packages containing a synthetic narcotic drug should be clearly marked with a double red line so that they may be promptly identified by the competent services.

To date the following synthetic drugs are controlled by virtue of the application of the 1948 Protocol: pethidine, bemidone, keto-bemidone, nisentil, methadone, iso-methadone, phenadoxone, NU-1779, NU-1932, NU-2206, N.I.H.-2933, N.I.H.-2953, 3-methoxy-N-methylmorphinan, and their respective salts. As regards natural drugs, dihydrocodeine, acetyldihydrocodeine and their respective salts come under the 1948 Protocol.

The Narcotic Drugs Commission, formed within the framework of collaboration in the field of public health in Benelux, studied ways and means to obtain the highest possible degree of uniformity in narcotics legislation as well as in the list of controlled narcotic drugs. It was decided to adopt, in the Netherlands and in Luxembourg, the system used in Belgium for ordering narcotic drugs. As a result there will be, in each of the three countries, a centralized administrative control over all deliveries by wholesale-dealers and manufacturers and over the reports of pharmacists and physicians. Although the 1948 Protocol has not yet been accepted by all three countries, it was decided that they would, in principle, institute supervision of the narcotic drugs to which the Protocol applies. It was also reported that it was the intention of the Benelux authorities in the future, when intra-Benelux-trade will no longer be considered as import and export, to keep regular contact regarding the import and manufacture of narcotic drugs in order to avoid that the total estimates, established in accordance with the 1931 Convention, be exceeded.

On 26 August 1950, the Political Committee of the League of Arab States created a Permanent Anti Narcotics Bureau empowered to put forward to the governments concerned "proposals for the consolidation and enforcement of the legislative and administrative measures to be taken" in respect of the production and smuggling of narcotics. The report on the first year of the Bureau's operations stated that a new law on narcotics control was about to be drawn up in Saudi Arabia ; the hope was also expressed that the ratification of the Egyptian-Lebanese commercial treaty would encourage Lebanese cultivators to substitute fruit cultivation for the growing of hashish, while it was noted at the same time that Syrian cultivators have started growing cotton instead of hashish.


The Government of France stated that - as the League of Nations had recommended that no new licences for the manufacture of narcotic drugs be issued if the existing factories were able to meet demand ; as it was practically impossible to control the manufacture of synthetics due to the fact that they are prepared from raw materials commonly use in industry ; as it would be difficult to permit the manufacture of some, while prohibiting the manufacture of other synthetic drugs ; and as the appearance of a great number of these products on the market might not give the medical profession time to acquaint itself with their effects - the following policy had been adopted : all synthetic narcotic drugs appearing on the world market are automatically placed on France's schedule of narcotic drugs (schedule B). In accordance with the provisions of the decree of 19 November 1948, anyone wishing to put such a product on the French market must apply for an authorization from the Ministry of Public Health and Population, and no authorizations are granted for either domestic manufacture or import. The only synthetic which may be manufactured in France is pethidine.

In 1950 the Central Government's narcotics legislation was extended so as to apply throughout all of India. 2

In New Zealand the Dangerous Drugs Regulations of 1951 primarily consolidate the existing provisions governing licences, records, prescriptions and the supply and possession of narcotic drugs.

In 1951 Switzerland passed a new narcotics law, which entered into force on 1 June 1952. This law controls categories of drugs by definition and appoints the Federal Health Service as the authority responsible for drawing up a detailed schedule of controlled drugs and preparations. The substances controlled are listed as follows :-opium ; poppy straw used for the production of narcotic substances ; coca leaf ; "hemp"; the phenanthrene alkaloids of opium and their derivatives, ecgonine and its derivatives, and the respective salts of these substances which give rise to addiction ; the resin of the glandular fibres of the hemp plant ; any other substance capable of producing addiction and of causing harmful effects similar to those of morphine, cocaine, and "hashish" ;-andall preparations containing any of the above substances. The Federal Council may, moreover, place under control substances which, while not themselves addiction-producing, may be converted into such substances. The Council may exempt from the scope of the law - either partially or entirely - any substances in quantities or concentrations which cannot give rise to addiction, provided that they cannot practicably be recovered or converted into other addiction-producing substances. Substances which do not come within the above definition of narcotics but which are of analogous chemical composition and are likely to produce similar effects may not be used, manufactured, or imported for commercial purposes except with the express consent of the Federal Health Service and in accordance with the conditions it may prescribe ; such an authorization being valid until the Health Service determines whether or not the substance is to be classified as a narcotic.

The law prohibits the importation or manufacture of, and the trade in, prepared opium and opium dross (déchets);diacetylmorphine and its salts; and preparations containing any of these substances. It also prohibits the issue to the public of "hashish", defined as the resin of the glandular fibres of hemp. The Federal Council is empowered to prohibit the importation or manufacture of, and the trade in, other narcotic substances the manufacture of which the international conventions may forbid, or the principal manufacturing countries may forego. It may, to comply with the conventions, forbid authorized narcotics manufacturers and narcotics dealers to manufacture, import, export or store certain narcotic substances, or impose quantitative restrictions, powers which the Council may delegate to the Department of the Interior. Any existing stocks of prohibited narcotics are to be converted into substances authorized by law, the conversion to take place under the supervision of the cantonal authorities. Narcotics which cannot be converted are to be destroyed. The Federal Health Service may, however, authorize the use of any prohibited substance except "hashish" for scientific purposes.

2 This legislation does not extent to Jammu and Kashmir.

The United Kingdom consolidated its narcotics legislation by issuing a new Dangerous Drugs Act, which entered into operation on 1 January 1952. The Act covers the importation, exportation, manufacture of and trade in narcotics in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In 1951 the Governor of Gibraltar was given express powers to enact rules for controlling or restricting the production, possession, sale and distribution of raw opium, coca leaves, and Indian hemp and to fix such penalties for the breach or non-observance of these rules as he might think fit, not exceeding however, a maximum of one month's imprisonment or a fine of 150. Previously only the export and import of these substances had been prohibited. New rules were issued accordingly, prohibiting their possession.

In Singapore a new Dangerous Drugs Ordinance and regulations under that Ordinance entered into force on 1 March 1951.


The purpose of all narcotic control is the limitation of narcotic drugs to medical and scientific uses. In their efforts to clarify what constitutes medical and scientific use of narcotic drugs, governments now frequently limit the practitioner's discretion, .e.g., by prohibiting altogether the use of certain substances, most frequently diacetylmorphine (Switzerland); by establishing by law the maximum amounts which may be prescribed at one time in the treatment of diseases (New Zealand); or by establishing by law the maximum doses which may be administered for the treatment of addiction (California).

Swiss federal legislation, while containing no dosage limitations or similar restrictions, states expressly that dentists, physicians, and veterinarians may use (and the latter two categories, prescribe) narcotic drugs only within the limits permitted by science. The cantons are, however, entitled to limit dentists to the use of specific narcotics. In the United States, California legislation which, as noted above, does contain restrictions regarding a physician's use of drugs, contains, in addition, a provision stating expressly that a physician may prescribe, furnish, or administer narcotics only in such quantities and for such length of time as are reasonably necessary.


While the struggle for the abolition of opium smoking, specially in certain countries of the Far East, has been waged by enforcement authorities through stringent action against opium dens and smuggling, significant legislative provisions have been issued more particularly in Burma, India, Pakistan, and Singapore.

In Burma, according to the annual report for 1950, it has been proposed to extend the suppression of the Opium Dens Act, 1950, to other towns in the Union of Burma besides Rangoon; action has been kept pending, however, until the anti-opium clinics are opened for operation. Moreover, the Government of the Union of Burma reported that towards the end of 1950 it established an Opium Enquiry Committee which was to review the existing opium policy in the country.

The Government of India reported that in twenty-five out of twenty-seven states constituting the Indian Union, laws are in force controlling opium-smoking; out of these twenty-six states, six prohibit opium-smoking completely, while the others have adopted a policy of gradual suppression.

While opium-smoking was reported to be prohibited in Pakistan (excepting being made for existing addicts on medical grounds), the Government of Pakistan, nevertheless, issued a directive on 24 May 1950 to the provincial government and to the federated states to consider and to adopt more stringent measures to ensure complete prohibition of opium-smoking without any exception.

The new Dangerous Drugs Ordinance of Singapore repeals the Opium and Chandu Proclamation of 1946 and includes, instead, provisions prohibiting the import, export, possession, manufacture, and sale or other dealings in, as well as use of, prepared opium.


The establishment of a central office for the manufacture and distribution of medicinal narcotic drugs is reported by the Chinese Government.

The new consolidated narcotics legislation of New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom's colony of Singapore, as well as the narcotics law of Switzerland all distinguish between general licensing by virtue of a profession (applicable usually to members of the medical profession and pharmacists) and individual licensing (applicable to wholesalers, etc.).

Official prescription blanks for narcotic substances are required by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and, by the state of California in the United States. The special counterfoil books required in Metropolitan France are also reported obligatory in Madagascar.

In the Cameroons under French administration and in Singapore, advertising for narcotic substances is subject to licensing provisions under the narcotics laws.

Turkey again permitted middlemen to purchase opium from the cultivators provided they delivered it to the Agricultural Products Office or its agency.

Provisions relating to the production of raw materials and the manufacture of narcotic drugs as well as measures intended to improve the existing machinery of records, reports and governmental inspection, penal sanctions which various countries enacted for the suppression of the illicit traffic in narcotic drags, and measures relating to the administrative organization of the control of narcotic drugs at the national level, are dealt with in other chapters of the Annual Summary of Laws and Regulations.