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Epilogue A sketch of the international movement since 1939 PDF Print E-mail
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Books - American Diplomacy and the narcotics traffic
Written by Paul Goldstein   

As indicated in the body of this study, the war years did not completely interrupt the international efforts at narcotic drug control.' The United States took special pains to insure that the momentum that had built up over the previous decades would not be dissipated. Therefore, the Permanent Central Board and the Supervisory Body were invited to carry on their work from the United States, and branches of these agencies were established in Washington, D.C., for the duration of the war. The United States also made representations, already mentioned, to the nations involved in the traffic in prepared opium and the pro-duction of raw materials. By 1945 several of the Western nations with Far Eastern possessions had abolished or had promised to abash the smoking opium monopolies in those of their territories which had been liberated from the Japanese, and some of the producing states had in-dicated a willingness to continue the discussions on the limitation of the production of raw products.

In 1946 the United Nations took over the functions of the League of Nations in the narcotics field. At its first session in 1946 the Econoinic and Social Council created the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as a replacement for the Opium Advisory Committee. By the Protocol of 1946 all the functions exercised by the League under the existing narcotics conventions were transferred to the United Nations, and in 1948 the first of the international agreements under United Nations auspices dealing with substantial aspects of the drug problem was concluded. The Paris Protocol of 194.8 supplemented the Narcotics Limi-tation Convention of 1931 by placing under the control provisions of the latter convention, on the recommendation of the World Health Organization, any new drug found to be capable of producing addiction.

The Paris Protocol was followed in 1953 by the Protocol for Limit-ing and Regulating the Cultivation of the Poppy Plant, the Production of, International and Wholesale Trade in, and Use of Opium. The Protocol covered raw opium, medicinal opium, and prepared opium, and specifically provided for the restriction of the use of the drug to medical and scientific needs. To this end the use of opium for quasi-medical purposes was to be suppressed within fifteen years after the Protocol came into effect. The inability of the manufacturing and pro-ducing states to agree on prices—one of the matters left unresolved in the Advisory Committee's draft of r939—prevented the adoption of a direct system of limitation on a quota basis. Therefore, curtailment of production was to be achieved indirectly by limiting the stocks of opium to be maintained by the individual producing, manufacturing, and consuming states, a system similar to that of the Narcotics Limita-tion Convention. Producing states were obligated to establish special government agencies to control production, use, and trade in opium and to Emit the area cultivated. Countries producing poppy straw were to prohibit the production of opium from such poppies. Only seven states—Bulgaria, Greece, India, Iran, Turkey, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia—were to be permitted to export opium, and imports by manufacturing and consuming countries were to be restricted to opium produced in these seven states. Estimates of needs and statistics on production, consumption, trade, and other opium transactions were to be submitted to the Permanent Central Board. The board would have authority to impose an import and export embargo on a state that was considered to be a center of illicit traffic. For the Protocol to go into effect, ratification by twenty-five countries, including at least three of the producing and three of the manufacturing states listed in the docu-ment was necessary. The United States was among the early ratifiers of the instrument, but as ratification by the requisite number of pro-ducing countries proceeded at a slow pace, the Protocol did not go into force until March 1963, and then among only forty-five countries. Five states have since become parties to it.

Throughout most of the 195o's the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs was engaged in efforts to draft a convention which would consolidate the existing multilateral treaties in a single instru-ment and thereby simplify the law and the international machinery of control. These efforts culminated in a United Nations conference in early 1961, and the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was opened for signature from March 3o to August of that year. During that period sixty-four countries signed the Convention, and it came into force on December 13, 1964, after forty countries ratified or acceded to it. In addition to consolidating the existing instruments, the Conven-tion attempted to cover all narcotic substances and to restrict their production and use to strictly medical and scientific purposes. Further-more, provisions calling for international technical assistance and mea-sures for the treatment of addicts were illustrative of the increasing attention on an international level which has been given over the past thirteen years to the problem of addiction itself—its prevention and treatment, and rehabilitation and aftercare of addicts—in contradistinc-tion to the emphasis on suppressing illicit drug supplies. Thus a new phase of the international drug-control movement appears to be in progress in which efforts are being focused increasingly on reducing the demand for drugs (and thereby limiting the quantities produced) by helping the addict to give up the habit as well as by preventing new recruits to the vice.

The United States did not sign the Single Convention, fearing that as the production of opium for export was not confined to the seven countries listed in the 1953 Protocol, other countries might engage in such production and thereby increase the amount of opium available for the illicit traffic. A secondary fear was that as the Convention was specifically open to reservations, its provisions might not be fully and universally applied. By early 967, however, the State Department concluded that these fears had been proved groundless, and in view of the acceptance of the Convention by a growing number of countries and the desirability of having a role in its control machinery, recom-mended adhesion by the United States.' Without opposition from any source, the Senate approved the Convention on May 8, and it came into force for the United States on June 24, 1967.

As in other matters, the Cold War has served to complicate efforts at international collaboration in the suppression of the drug menace. Most communist states have cooperated in the drug-control movement. However, since 1951 the United States has complained in the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs about the exportation of heroin from Communist China to feed the illicit traffic to the United States and other areas. The United States charges that the Chinese are promoting this traffic in order to obtain foreign exchange to buy strate-gic materials and at the same time weaken Western countries by poison-ing their inhabitants,3 thus again making the opium traffic a national weapon.

China is not, of course, the chief source of the drugs found in the illicit traffic in the United States. In 961, North Korea, South Korea, Mexico, and France were the principal sources in addition to China of the heroin seized in the illicit traffic in the United States, while India and Mexico were the main sources of raw and prepared opium. Co-caine seized in the illicit traffic came from Bolivia, Peru, Panama, and Colombia.4 With the addition of the Middle East, the sources and routes of illicit drug trafficking to the United States in 1966 were essentially the same as they were in 1961.3

Despite the comprehensive and complex international control mea-sures as well as America's own strict system of control, the United States continues to have a serious narcotics problem. Statistics on the extent of the problem are unreliable. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics reported 59,72o narcotics addicts as of the end of 1966,6 an increase of 12,92 2 over the number reported in r 96i. The Bureau's listings, how-ever, suffer from an inadequate information-gathering system. As con-ceded in the report of a Presidential task force on narcotics in 1967,

most of the names in the file are of persons arrested by state and local police agencies and reported voluntarily to the Bureau on a form the Bureau provides for this purpose. Thus the inclusion of a person's name in the file depends in large measure on his coming to the attention of the police, being recognized and classified as an addict, and being reported. Moreover, some police agencies and many health and medical agencies do not participate in the voluntary reporting system. There is also no place in the system for persons who use opiates without becoming addicted. For these reasons many people feel that the Bureau's file does not present a complete statistical picture of opiate use in this country.7

The task force went on to note, however, that "other estimates of the present addict population, some of which cite figures as high as z oo,000, are without solid statistical foundation."

Another dimension to the current drug situation in the United States is the increasing use of marihuana, a nonaddicting drug having little in common with the opiates but under similar legal controls, state and federal. Controversy rages over the degree to which it can be classified, comparatively, as a dangerous drug.9 Similar concern is manifested over rising consumption of hallucinogens, amphetamines, and barbiturates. Much of the present anxiety over nonmedical use of the various classes of drugs arises from the fact that whereas once such use was regarded as a vice of depressed social and economic groups, with certain excep-tions, it is clear today that large segments of the respectable middle class, especially college students and young professional people, are also using these substances.

There is also much controversy today over the proper approach that should be taken toward reducing the drug problem. Many contend that the problem should be considered primarily a medical matter to be handled by the medical profession rather than a criminal issue to be attacked by law-enforcement agencies. Reflecting the sustained con-cern with the problem have been the numerous studies and discussions carried on over the past seven years by the federal and several state governments, and by medical and legal societies. On only one point does there seem to be agreement, and that is that before a solution to the problem will be forthcoming, extensive research is needed on all phases of the problem.


1. Convenient summaries of the international efforts since 1939 are contained in Norman Ansley, "International Efforts to Control Narcotics," Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, I (July, Aug. i959), io5-t 12; Robert W. Cox, "The Suppression of Illicit Narcotic Drug Traffic Through International Cooperation," Notre Dame Lawyer, XXXVII, No. (196i), 196-116; Helen H. Moorhead, "Inter-national Narcotics Control: 1939-1946"; United Nations Review, VIII (Feb., 1961), 3; (May, 1961), 28-29; (Sept., 1961), 26-27; and United Nations, Office of Public In-formation, International Control of Narcotic Drugs, 65-18122-15M-Oct., 1965.

2.Department of State Bulletin, LVI (April z4,1967), 672-673.

3. Harry Anslinger and William F. Tomkins, Traffic in Narcotics (New York; 1953) chap. iv. See also U.S. Cong., Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Communist China and Illicit Narcotic Traffic, Hearing Before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Ad-ministration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, 84th Cong., ist Sess., 1955 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1955).

4. U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Narcotics, Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs for the Year Ended December 31, 196i (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1962), pp. 24, 26.

5. U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Narcotics, Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs for the Year Ended December 31, 1966 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1967), p. 3i.

6.Ibid., p. 26.

7. The President's Commission on Enforcement and Administration of Justice, Task Force on Narcotics and Drug Abuse, Task Force Report: Narcotics and Drug Abuse (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1967), p. 2. A critical analysis of the Bureau's statistics on drug addiction is given by Lindesmith, op. cit., pp. 99-134.

8. Task Force Report: Narcotics and Drug Abuse, p. 2.

9. David Solomon (ed.), The Marihuana Papers (Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1966).


Our valuable member Paul Goldstein has been with us since Monday, 20 February 2012.

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