— The Erimtan Angle —


“On 23 January 1912, the International Opium Convention was signed in the Hague by representatives from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Persia (Iran), Portugal, Russia, Siam (Thailand), the UK and the British oversees territories (including British India). Three years later, it entered into force in five countries. The Convention gained, however, near-universal adherence after 1919 when all the countries signing the Peace Treaties of Versailles, St. Germain-en-Laye etc. also became party to the International Opium Convention. Thus by the mid 1920s close to 60 countries had – de jure – signed and ratified the Hague treaty and this number increased to 67 by 1949. The International Opium convention consisted of six chapters and 25 articles. In addition to opium and morphine, which were already under extensive international discussion, the Hague Convention also included two new substances that had become problematic: cocaine and heroin. Cocaine was first isolated by the German chemist Albert Niemann in 1860, and rapidly gained popularity for both medical and recreational use. Heroin was a relatively new drug at the time of the Hague Convention, as it had only become available as a pharmaceutical product in 1898. Ironically, it was originally marketed as a non-addictive alternative to morphine, which was proving problematic in many areas. The 1912 Convention was far from perfect, but it contained many elements of a comprehensive drug control treaty. Moreover, as an official declaration on the dangerous practices of opium smoking and the non-medical trade in opium and other drugs, it had value as an advocacy tool. It also inspired national drug control legislation, such as the 1913 Harrison Act in the United States, the foundation of U.S. drug law in the 20th century”.[1]


In 1925, an upgraded International Opium Convention is passed, extending its scope to cannabis. In 1931, the Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs aims to restrict the supply of narcotic drugs to amounts needed for medical and scientific purposes. In 1936, the Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs becomes the first international instrument to make certain drug offences international crimes. Ten years later, in 1946, International drug control transferred from the League of Nations to the newly created United Nations (UN). The UN Economic and Social Council establishes the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) as the central policy-making body of the UN in drug-related matters. In 1948, the Synthetic Narcotics Protocol comes into force, placing a series of new substances under international control. In 1953, the Opium Protocol is signed, limiting opium production and trade to medical and scientific needs. In 1961, the cornerstone of today’s international drug control regime, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is adopted, merging existing drug control agreements. The Single Convention lists all controlled substances and creates the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Another ten years later, in 1971, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances is passed in response to increased use of these drugs in several countries. In 1972, the Single Convention is amended by a Protocol to underscore the need to provide adequate prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services. In 1988, the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is passed to cope with the security threat posed by drug trafficking in a number of regions. In 1991, the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) is established in Vienna. In 1998, Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) to strengthen Member States’ efforts to reduce demand and supply of drugs. In 2002, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) adopts its current name. In 2003, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime comes into force, strengthening international capacity to counter organized crime, including drug trafficking.[2]


[1] “The 1912 Hague International Opium Convention” UNODC. https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/the-1912-hague-international-opium-convention.html.

[2] “Chronology:100 years of drug control” UNODC. https://www.unodc.org/documents/wdr/WDR_2008/timeline_E_PRINT.pdf.


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