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THE HAGUE 23 Jan 2012 Fight against drugs turns 100

China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, Siam, the United Kingdom and its territories began the global figh

January 23, 2012 - NULL

THE HAGUE 23 Jan 2012 Fight against drugs turns 100

China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, Siam, the United Kingdom and its territories began the global fight against drugs on 23 Jan 1912 with the signing of the International Opium Convention. Related conventions have sought to control marijuana, hashish and certain synthetic drugs. A century on, the headlines point to a thriving drug trade, begging the question of whether the treaties are worth the paper they are printed on.

The centenary invites other questions. They include whether the war on drugs has driven up the price

THE HAGUE 23 Jan 2012 Fight against drugs turns 100

China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, Siam, the United Kingdom and its territories began the global fight against drugs on 23 Jan 1912 with the signing of the International Opium Convention. Related conventions have sought to control marijuana, hashish and certain synthetic drugs. A century on, the headlines point to a thriving drug trade, begging the question of whether the treaties are worth the paper they are printed on.

The centenary invites other questions. They include whether the war on drugs has driven up the price of illicit drugs, enhancing the drug trade because of the greater profits to be made; whether the drug trade can be wiped out without first addressing the demand for drugs in the West; and whether the war against drugs is winnable by any means.

There are many drug treaties. Six more international conventions and agreements were concluded between 1912 and 1936, according to the United Nations chronology of efforts to control the drug trade. Under a Protocol on Narcotic Drugs of Dec 1946 the functions of the League of Nations and of the Office International d'Hygiène Publique were transferred to the United Nations and to the World Health Organization. International trade in marijuana and hashish was first placed under controls during the International Opium Convention of 1925. In 1948 a protocol extended the control system to synthetic and natural drugs outside the scope of the earlier conventions. In 1953 a further protocol was adopted to limit and regulate the cultivation of the poppy plant and the production of, or international and wholesale trade in, and use of opium. Before the protocol became operative in 1963 the international control organs found a need for codifying and strengthening the existing treaties, and a Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was drawn up in New York in 1961. This Convention drew into one comprehensive control regime all the earlier agreements, limited the use of coca leaves and cannabis to medical and scientific needs, and paved the way for the International Narcotics Control Board, which began duty in 1968. The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 followed. The encyclopedia notes that while a major function of the 1961 and 1971 treaties was to codify drug-control measures on an international level, all three served to prevent drug trafficking and drug abuse.

But do they? Afghanistan is recognized as the world leader in the production of opium, the main ingredient of heroin. The United Nations reports that opium poppy cultivation climbed 7 per cent in 2011 to nearly double the area under cultivation in 2002. Three provinces in the north and east of the country that had been declared "poppy-free" have returned to production. Reuters noted on Oct 11 that the poppy economy in Afghanistan provides a financial lifeline for insurgents in the war-torn country.

The Diplomat magazine reported in Feb 2011 that Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle, where the borders of Burma, Laos and Thailand come together, has also seen a jump in opium production. Less than a decade ago, opium production in the Triangle was on the decline. The 2010 United Nations opium survey for Southeast Asia reported a 22 per cent increase in opium poppy cultivation over 2009, with Laos production surging 55 per cent.

The story from south of the US border is equally grim. The trade has become so lucrative that much of Mexico has become a war zone as drug lords battle for control of the flow into North America. Since President Felipe Calderon ordered his troops into the streets in late 2006, the acreage dedicated to marijuana farming has nearly doubled in Mexico, according to technical reports by the US government and the United Nations. The acreage devoted to opium poppies has also soared, according to the US State Department, making Mexico the second-leading heroin producer in the world, after Afghanistan, whose crop goes mostly to Europe and Asia. (WRITTEN Oct 2011)

RELATED READING:

Chronology: 100 years of drug control (pdf) (UN)
http://www.unodc.org/documents/wdr/WDR_2008/timeline_E_PRINT.pdf

Reporting On The Front Lines Of Mexico's Drug War (NPR 26 Oct 2011)
http://www.npr.org/2011/10/26/141659461/reporting-on-the-front-lines-of-mexicos-drug-war

Mexico's drug war is giving growers a break (WP 21 Oct 2011)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/americas/mexicos-drug-war-bypassing-growers/2011/10/20/gIQAPKv93L_story.html

Afghan Opium Output Surges .(WSJ 12 Oct 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204450804576625003263984480.html

The 1912 Hague International Opium Convention
http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/the-1912-hague-international-opium-convention.html

Asia's Opium Resurgence (The Diplomat 22 Feb 2011)
http://the-diplomat.com/2011/02/22/asia%E2%80%99s-opium-resurgence/

Mexico's drug war is giving growers a break (WP 21 Oct 2011)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/americas/mexicos-drug-war-bypassing-growers/2011/10/20/gIQAPKv93L_story.html

Date written/update: 2012-01-23