to Wootton Report Index
of the Development of International Control
Opium Convention 1912
Conference at The Hague which drew up this Convention expressed the view that
it was "desirable to study the question of Indian hemp from the statistical
and scientific point of view, with the object of regulating its abuses, should
the necessity therefore be felt by internal legislation or by an international
In 1923 the Government of South Africa proposed to the League of Nations Advisory
Committee on Traffic in Opium and Dangerous Drugs that Indian hemp ("the
whole or any portion of the plants C. Indica and C. Sativa") should be treated
as one of the habit-forming drugs and included in the international convention.
When this proposal was discussed at the 6th Conference of the Advisory Committee
in August 1924, the British delegate suggested that governments should be asked
to furnish the League with information about production, use and traffic in the
drug so that the question could be further considered at the Advisory Committee's
meeting in 1925. A general enquiry was circulated by the Secretariat in August
Opium Conference 1924-1923
At this conference of States members of the League of Nations and signatories
to the 1912 Convention, convened primarily to devise administrative measures to
end opium production and use in the Far East, the Egyptian delegate, supported
by the Turkish delegate, submitted proposals that hashish should be included in
the list of narcotics with which the Conference had to deal, and that all other
noxious drugs should automatically be brought under the Convention. A suggestion
by the British delegate that the matter should be left over for the Advisory Committee
as already arranged, was rejected.
The Annex to this paper contains an extract from the main Egyptian statement.
The matter was referred to a sub-committee consisting of doctors, professors and
persons with ministerial or administrative experience in public health. hospital
or pharmaceutical service drawn from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic,
Egypt. France. Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland.
Spain. Switzerland, U.S.A. Eventually all but 3 members reported in favour of
complete prohibition of the production and use of cannabis resin, the delegates
of Great Britain, Netherlands and India abstained, the first out of uncertainty
whether there was a potential medical value in the resin. The Indian delegate
offered co-operation in measures to control international traffic but emphasised
"serious difficulties in confining the use of hemp drugs to medical and scientific
purposes; for example, there are social and religious customs which naturally
have to be considered, and there is the doubt whether the total prohibition of
drugs easily prepared from a wild growing plant could in practice be made effective".
The Sub-Committee's report was adopted and another sub-committee (consisting of
representatives of Belgium, Egypt, France, British Empire, India, Siam, Turkey
and Uruguay) was invited to prepare draft provisions for incorporation in the
new convention. This group's proposals were adopted on 14th February
1925 virtually without discussion. As embodied in the International Opium Convention
( 19th February 1925) these
defined Indian hemp as "the dried flowering or fruiting tops of the pistillate
plant cannabis sativa 1. from which the resin has not been extracted, under whatever
name may be designated in commerce"; and
required contracting parties
to impose internal control over galenical preparations (extracts and
tinctures) of Indian hemp (articles 4, 5 and 6):
to impose import/export control over Indian hemp (as defined in (i) above)
and resin prepared from it(articles 12-18);
"to prohibit the export of the resin obtained from Indian hemp and the ordinary
preparations of which the resin forms the base (such as hashish, esrar, chiras,
djamba) to countries which have prohibited their use, and, in cases where export
is permitted, to require the production of a special import certificate issued
by the Government of the importing country stating that the importation is approved
for the purposes specified in the certificate" (these had to be medical or
scientific) and that the resin or preparation will not be re-exported;
"to exercise an effective control of such a nature as to prevent the illicit
international traffic in Indian hemp and especially in the resin" (article
Committee on Traffic in Opium
A report prepared in August 1925 for the Advisors Committee on Traffic in Opium
after enquiries of governments about the South African proposal of 1923, indicated
replies as follows:
indian Hemp is not harmful Czechoslovakia, Hungary.
It is harmful, but should not be treated as a dangerous narcotic Belgium.
It is harmful and is already subject to statutory control
Bulgaria, Canada, Australia. Esthonia, Finland, Great Britain (controlled as poison),
Hungary, Monaco. Italy, Latsia. Norway. (The restrictions appeared, in most cases,
to limit sale to prescription only).
It is harmful and should be controlled by the international treaty Albania,
Ecuador, New Zealand, China, Panamas Portugal.
the reply from Portugal claimed experience of the harmfulness of the drug (in
Mozambique). A large number of countries (including most of those represented
on Sub-Committee F had not sent replies to the Advisory Committee's enquiry by
In the decade after 1925 the Advisory Committee moved towards systematic collection
of standardised annual reports from governments on administrative measures, and
of information about illicit traffic. Little attention was paid to Indian hemp
until 1933 when the Committee's report mentioned that
a taste for Indian Hemp products appears to be prevalent mainly among the Asiatic
and African peoples, it is not by any means confined to them. A smuggling trade
in cigarettes containing Indian hemp ("marihuana" cigarettes) appears
to have sprung up between the U.S.A., where it grows as a wild plant freely and
Canada. It may well be that, as the control over the Opium and coca derivatives
makes it more and more difficult to obtain them recourse will be increasingly
had to Indian hemp for addiction purposes, and it is important that the trade
in Indian hemp and its products should be closely watched-.
This apprehension led the Committee in 1935 to make a special review of the Indian
hemp situation. A detailed memorandum by the U.S.A. revealed a widespread of habitual
use of marihuana and "the alarming influence of addiction to Indian hemp
on the development of criminality"; some 34 out of 46 States had legislated
to suppress marihuana traffic. France reported on intensive measures to repress
the traffic from Syria. Egypt drew attention to the inadequacy of the 1925 Convention,
stressed that hashish had no therapeutic or industrial value and pressed for new
provisions to prevent cultivation of Indian hemp with due regard to the special
difficulties of certain countries. India said it could not change its policy,
under which the moderate use of raw opium and hemp drugs was tolerated, while
every measure was taken to prevent abuse. Ganja and bhang were connected with
social and religious customs; and prohibition had been tried without success.
Poland and Switzerland pointed out that "there was no thorough study available
of Indian hemp particularly from the medical and scientific standpoint.
The Committee accordingly decided, on the proposal of the Polish delegate, to
set up a Sub-Committee on Indian hemp, composed of representatives of Canada,
Egypt. Spain, U.S.A. (who was made chairman), France, U.K., India, Mexico, Netherlands,
and Poland with a medical assessor. "to study the whole problem of Indian
hemp. The Sub-Committee might appeal in the course of its investigations for the
co-operation of experts, doctors, and others who are duly qualified in the matter
of Indian hemp and who have had local experience either in Africa or in Asia or
in America. By way of preparation for the work of the Sub-Committee, the Committee
requested the Secretariat, on the proposal of the Swiss delegate, to prepare a
bibliography of all the literature relating to Indian hemp, and in the probable
event of no complete and authoritative work on the question being available. to
consider the possibility of publishing, at some future date, a memorandum on the
Indian hemp problem bringing up to date the existing information on the subject,
particularly from the medical and scientific standpoint".
At its first meeting in 1935 the Sub-Committee discussed bibliography and the
development of chemical tests for cannabinoids, and decided to invite the collaboration
of 6 experts in simplifying nomenclature and in determining whether, and in which
forms the drug was habit-forming and what treatment might be appropriate.
The Secretariat was asked to consider possible improvements in the convention
and to arrange for studies of the cause and effect of Indian hemp abuse.
In 1936 the Sub-Committee reviewed information presented by the assessor, Dr.
Bouquet (whose contribution was particularly commended) and Dr. Treadway. Its
report included the following statements:
to the effects of the abuse of cannabis, the Sub-Committee found that the information
before it still leaves much to be desired. The Sub-Committee recommends that effort
be made to procure further information concerning cannabis addiction in respect
Addictive properties (withdrawal symptoms)
Relation to crime.
in regard to insanity resulting from the use of cannabis and in regard to the
relation between cannabis addiction and crime was informally presented, which
leads the Sub-Committee to the conclusion that it would be advisable to collect
all information on these subjects available throughout the world.... The question
was raised in the Sub-Committee of the relation possibly existing between Indian
hemp addiction and addiction to other drugs. One may ask whether Indian hemp addicts
deprived of hashish have or have not a tendency to become victims of other drugs
and whether there is or is not a relation between these two addictions. The question
is whether to fear that the eradication of one evil may lead to the rise of another...."
In 1938 the Sub-Committee (joined by Dr. Bouquet) was provided with a variety
of scientific papers and reports (including information about the United States
Marihuana Tax Act 1937) and summed up its progress as follows:
Sub-Committee points out that, as a result of the investigations made up to the
present time, progress has been made in respect of the chemical identification
of cannabis and information has been collected on other phases of the problem
while at the same time certain points still require clarification, especially
in connection with the physiogical and psychological and psychopathic effects
of cannabis and with the relationships between hashish addiction and insanity
and between cannabis addiction and addiction to other drugs, especially heroin."
were no further meetings of the Advisory Committee or the Sub-Committee on Indian
Commission on Narcotic Drugs
At its first session in 1946 the Commission decided not to appoint a subcommittee
on Indian hemp as the Advisory Committee had before. The Commissions report
medical opinion in the United States and in Mexico had been advanced that marihuana
did not offer any real danger, and had little influence on criminal behaviour.
Indeed, the Mexican physicians were of the opinion that its use had no ill effect
on the health of the user. The representative Of Mexico wondered whether in these
circumstances too strict restrictions on the use of this plant, the production
of which was in fact prohibited in Mexico would not result in its replacement
by alcohol, which might have worse results. The representative of the United States
did not share this point of view and quoted a number of concrete examples, proving
thc relationship between the use of marihuana and crime. He considered the
recent report of certain United States physicians on the subject to have been
extremely dangerous. These physicians had had, in fact, a very limited field
of observation as they had carried out their studies in a penal settlement....
The representative of India considered that the effect of cannabis in his country
depended generally on the natural and psychological predisposition of the individual.
On the whole Indians were moderate in their use of ganja and bhang. The same phenomena
had been observed in Egypt. This country had nevertheless limited the quantity
of cannabis indica as well as other narcotic drugs that could be prescribed by
physicians for medicinal purposes".
At its third session in 1948 the question of the medical use of cannabis W35 raised
and the Commission agreed with a proposal of the Soviet Union to insert in the
future Single Convention a provision prohibiting the preparation of hashish .
From 1949-1952 the Commission concentrated on preparation of a new international
convention. In 1953 it noted that new restrictions on cannabis had been imposed
in France. Algeria, Morocco. Tunisia and Egypt; agreed that as suggested by W.H.O.
the term "cannabis" should be substituted for "Indian hemp":
and requested the Secretariat to carry out surveys of the problem in various countries
and studies (1) to find alternative fibre-producing crops without harmful resin
(with the Food and Agriculture Organisation) and (2) of the physical and mental
effects of cannabis (through W.H.O.).
In 1954 the Commission was advised by the W.H.O. Expert Committee on Drugs Liable
to Produce Addiction that cannabis preparations no longer served any useful medical
purpose and were practically obsolete. The Commission recommended ECOSOC to urge
governments to explore discontinuing their use as quickly as possible.
Replies to this ECOSOC exhortation later showed that many governments were non-committal
about the need for any positive action.
In 1955 the Commission received reports on the cannabis situation in six countries
in South Africa. It was also provided with a report by Dr. P. O. Wolff (formerly
Chief, Addiction Producing Drugs Section of W.H.O.) on the "Physical and
Mental Effects of Cannabis" which affirmed that
is important to realise that not only is marihuana smoking per se a danger but
that its use eventually leads the smoker to turn to intravenous heroin
injections" and concluded that "cannabis constitutes a dangerous drug
from every point of view, whether physical, mental, social or criminological".
At the same session the Commission provisionally decided to include cannabis in
Schedule IV of the projected new convention.
In 1957 the Commission received reports on the problem in Angola, Brazil, India,
Morocco, Costa Rica, Egypt. Italy and Pakistan, and requested surveys in Nepal
and Lebanon. The representative of W.H.O. reaffirmed that cannabis did not possess
any therapeutic value. The Commission adopted a resolution calling on governments
to abolish legal consumption of cannabis and to promote research.
In 1958 reports were presented on the cannabis situation in Burma and Lebanon.
Brazil reported that use of maconha had spread to nearly all social classes and
contributed to crime. India reported that the Indian Pharmacopoeia Committee believed
cannabis to have definite clinical value, but its use was declining because of
the instability of the active principle and more stable preparations were being
sought. The All-India Narcotics Conference in 1956 had recommended steps towards
the total prohibition of ganja and bhang by 1959 and 1961.
In 1959 the Commission reviewed surveys of the cannabis sltuation m Jamaica, Mexico,
U.S.A. and China; noted active countermeasures being taken in Morocco, the Near
and Middle East and Mexico; asked that the U.N. Laboratory should intensify research
to identify cannabis drugs and distribute authentic samples for national analysis;
and, in the light of new suggestions that cannabis might have a value as an antibiotic,
recommended ECOSOC to ask W.H.O. to provide advice on this question for consideration
at the proposed Plenipotentiary Conference on the Draft Single Convention.
At its sixteenth session in 1961 the Commission was informed that the press in
the Netherlands had featured comments by professional persons that cannabis addiction
was no worse than alcoholism. The report recorded that
Observer of INTERPOL said that cannabis intoxication was known to produce aggressiveness.
The representative of W.H.O. drew attention to the opinion of the W.H.O. Expert
Committee which was still valid that cannabis abuse comes definitely under
the terms of its definition of addiction. There was also the added danger
that cannabis abuse is very likely to be a forerunner of addiction to more dangerous
addicting drugs. The Commission recalled that it had agreed that cannabis abuse
was a form of drug addiction and emphasised that any publicity to the contrary
was misleading and dangerous".
W.H.O. representative stated that
was not yet known what component of cannabis was addiction producing, and it was
therefore not possible to assess quantitatively its addiction producing properties".
Conference for Adoption of Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (January-March
This Conference had before it a Third Draft of a Convention prepared by the Commission
on Narcotic Drugs to consolidate and extend previous international treaties. The
broad plan comprised limitation to medical and scientific purposes; and 4 schedules
with mandatory obligations for strict controls (and in the case of Schedule IV
complete prohibition). For cannabis Article 39 provided for complete prohibition
of all handling of cannabis or cannabis preparations except for scientific research
or use in indigenous systems of medicine. The Conference also had before it a
note by W.H.O. affirming once more that there was no justification for the medical
use of cannabis and advising that prohibition or restriction of such use should
be recommended but not mandatory.
In the plenary discussions the value of cannabis and its dangers were discussed
in general terms. Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands drew attention to the use
of galenical preparations. Yugoslavia expressed fear that industrial use
would be restricted. The League of Arab States asserted that in the Middle East
hashish was preferred to other narcotics. Ghana, with support from Brazil,
said that cannabis produced anti-social behaviour which was a threat to
the whole community and should be controlled as strictly as opium. Venezuela
reported that cannabis was a "grave social danger". The U.S.A. pointed
out that although cannabis might be merely habit-forming it was very often "only
a stepping stone to heroin addiction". India maintained that cannabis products
were less noxious than heroin, and cannabis addiction, like alcoholism,
did not constitute a serious social problem in that country where marihuana-smoking
did not lead on to the taking of heroin. France and the United Kingdom indicated
that the cannabis problem was of little concern in their countries and were concerned
that national governments should be free to decide on complete prohibition within
their own discretion, the form of control recommended by W H.O.
After further discussion of the general scheme of control and the problems of
cannabis it was decided
to maintain 4 schedules for control purposes with freedom to Parties to decide
in their own discretion whether to prohibit the handling of drugs listed in Schedule
(ii) to include
in the preamble to the Convention an over-riding limitation to restrict the use
of scheduled drugs for medical and scientific purposes;
to include transitional provisions allowing countries like India and Pakistan
to authorise non-medical use of cannabis for a period of 25 years:
to exclude the leaves of the cannabis plant from the scope of the Convention,
except for an obligation in general terms (Article 28(3) that "the Parties
shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent misuse of, and illicit
traffic in, the leases of the cannabis plant",
A Technical Committee which worked upon the selection of drugs for the schedules
adopted the following criteria for putting substances in Schedule IV:
having strong addiction-producing properties or a liability to abuse not off-set
by therapeutic advantages which cannot be afforded by some other drugs; and/or
complete deletion from general medical practice is desirable because of the risk
to public health.
this basis the Conference agreed that cannabis as well as cannabis resin should
be included (with heroin, desomorphine and ketobemidone) in the 4th Schedule,
Sweden pointing up the conclusion by stressing that heroin was strongly addiction-producing
but not abused by many people, whereas cannabis was used by a large number but
was not in itself strongly addiction-producing. The final text of article 3(5)
gives effect to these criteria in the words
liable to abuse and to produce ill effects and . . . such liability is not offset
by substantial therapeutic advantages not possessed by substances other than drugs
in Schedule IV".
other words the presence of cannabis in Schedule IV is to be explained by its
wide abuse and its obsolescence in medical practice rather than by its intrinsic
Commission on Narcotic Drugs
In 1963 and 1965 the Commission reviewed its attitude to cannabis in the light
of further publicity, casting doubt on the dangers of the drug. The representative
of W.H.O., commenting on the definition adopted by the Expert Committee for
dependence of cannabis-type, said that
the definition of a type of dependence. was confined to its medical aspects, the
socio-economic characteristics and implications should not be overlooked.
Thus, the anxiety of the distortion of perception which were among the effects
of the drug might lead to the disruption of interpersonal relationships, and abuse
of the drug to criminal behaviour".
The Commission stated its position as follows It "recognised that the situation
differed from one country to another. While cannabis must be subject to the same
type of control at the international level, there was perhaps a need to adjust
the strictness of control at the national level.
could be no question but that cannabis presented a danger to society, although
more and more people were attempting to cast doubt on the necessity of controlling
this substance. The Commission reiterated-the view that cannabis, the drug that
moved most in international traffic, should be fully subject to international
control. Under the 1961 Convention, it was indeed subject to the strictest regime
of control. Governments should act accordingly, therefore, and while there might
be some variations in the type of national control, the principle as such could
not be called in question".
At its twenty second session in 1968, the Commission's attention was once more
drawn to publicity campaigns in favour of legalising or tolerating the use of
cannabis for non-medical purposes. The representative of INTERPOL reported that
at its recent Annual Conference it had adopted a strongly worded resolution concerning
the need to combat the use of cannabis. On the initiative of the U.S.A., France,
Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico and U.A.R., the Commission decided to recommend
the following draft resolution for adoption by ECOSOC:
abuse of cannabis and the continuing need for strict control
Economic and Social Council
that the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, obliges Parties to place cannabis
under strict controls to prevent its abuse.
that the problem of the traffic and abuse of cannabis remains serious in many
areas where it has long been encountered,
that the traffic and abuse of cannabis appears to be spreading to areas where
it has not heretofore been encountered,
that considerable publicity has been given to unauthoritative statements minimizing
the harmful effects of cannabis and advocating that its use be permitted for non-medical
that cannabis is known inter alia to distort perception of time and space, modify
mood and impair judgment, which may result in unpredictable behaviour, violence
and adverse effects on health, and that it may be associated with the abuse of
other drugs such as LSD, stimulants and heroin,
that inefficient controls over, apathy towards and lack of public awareness of
the dangers of cannabis and its continued abuse contribute to drug dependence,
create law enforcement problems, and injure national health, safety and welfare,
Recommends that all countries concerned increase their efforts to eradicate the
abuse and illicit traffic in cannabis;
Further recommends that governments should promote research and advance additional
medical and sociological information regarding cannabis, and effectively deal
with publicity which advocates legalization or tolerance of the non-medical use
of cannabis as a harmless drug."
Central Narcotics Board
In its Final Report published in November 1967 the Board stated
abuse of cannabis is more widespread than that of any substance under international
control. It is also the substance about which for the time being the Board has
the least information, as it is only since the entry into force of the Single
Convention that governments have been obliged to furni7sh complete stafistical
data on cannabis . . .
. . the Board feels it should repeat thc caveat which it included in its report
for 1965, namely that opposition to the control of cannabis is contrary to the
advice of scientific and medical authorities of international repute and contrary
to the policy reaffirmed by the international community of States at the Plenipotentiary
Conference which drafted the Single Convention of 1961. This conference in fact
classified cannabis amongst the particularly dangerous substances and recommended
that governments should impose a general prohibition on its production, distribution
and consumption, even for medical purposes. It is worth recalling that this decision
was taken by a conference of 74 delegates whose members included many experts
familiar with all aspects of the narcotics problem".
Extract from statement of Egyptian delegate at Second Opium Conference 1924
prepared in various forms, is used principally in the following ways:
In the form of a paste made from the resin obtained from the crushed leaves
and flowers, which is mixed with sugar and cooked with butter and aromatic substances
and is used to make sweets, confectionery, etc.; known in Egypt by the names of
mansul, maagun and garawish.
Cut into small fragments, it is mixed with tobacco for smoking in cigarettes.
The Indian hemp is simply smoked in special hookahs, called gozah.
must next consider the effects which are produced by the use of hashish and distinguished
hashishism occurs when the consumer uses hashish irregularly.
us study the effects of this intoxication: taken in small doses, hashish at first
produces an agreeable inebriation, a sensation of well being and a desire to smile;
the mind is stimulated. A slightly stronger dose brings a feeling of oppression
and discomfort. There follows a kind of hilarious and noisy delirium in persons
of a cheerful disposition, but the delirium takes a violent form in persons of
violent character. It should be noted that behaviour under the influence of the
delirium is always related to the character of the individual. This state of inebriation
or delirium is followed by slumber, which is usually peaceful but sometimes broken
by nightmares. The awakening is not unpleasant; there is a slight feeling of fatigue,
but it soon passes.
absorbed in large doses produces a serious delirium and strong physical agitation;
it predisposes to acts of violence and produces a characteristic strident laugh.
This condition is followed by a veritable stupor, which cannot be called sleep.
Great fatigue is felt on awakening, and the feeling of depression may last for
habitual use of hashish brings on chronic hashishism, which is more serious than
countenance of the addict becomes gloomy, his eye is wild and the expression of
his face is stupid. He is silent; has no muscular power; suffers from physical
ailments, heart troubles, digestive troubles, etc.; his intellectual faculties
gradually weaken and the whole organism decays. The addict very frequently becomes
neurasthenic and, eventually, insane.
general, the absorption of hashish produces hallucinations, illusions as to time
and place, fits of trembling, and convulsions.
person under the influence of hashish presents symptoms very similar to those
the therapeutic point of view, science has not made much use of hashish with good
results. It has, however, been administered with some success in certain cases
of delirium tremens.
thus occasionally and in small doses, hashish perhaps does not offer much danger,
but there is always the risk that once a person begins to take it he will continue.
He acquires the habit and becomes addicted to the drug, and, once this has happened,
it is very difficult to escape. Notwithstanding the humiliations and penalties
inflicted on addicts in Egypt they always return to their vice. They are known
as "hashashees", which is a term of reproach in our country, and they
are regarded as useless derelicts.
hashishism is extremely serious, since hashish is a toxic substance, a poison
against which no effective antidote is known....
view of the great danger involved by the consumption of hashish, special measures
have been taken by the Egyptian Government. In 1884 the cultivation of this plant
was forbidden. Measures were taken to prevent the production and importation of
following quantities were seized by the Customs Administration:
following quantities were seized by the Coastguards Administration:
have no information regarding the quantities seized by the police.
illicit use of hashish is the principal cause of most of the cases of insanity
occurring in Egypt. In support of this contention, it may be observed that there
are three times as many cases of mental alienation among men as among women, and
it is an established fact that men are much more addicted to hashish than women.
(In Europe, on the contrary, it is significant that a greater proportion of cases
of insanity occur among women than among men).
speaking, the proportion of cases of insanity caused by the use of hashish varies
from 30-60 per cent of the total number of cases occurring in Egypt....
do not see why we should wait until 1925 to take a decision on this question since
a large number of countries have pronounced in favour of my proposal.
earnestly beg all the delegates to give this question their best attention, for
I know the mentality of Oriental peoples, and I am afraid that it will be said
that the question was not dealt with because it did not affect the safety
of the Europeans....
I am sure that, if we take a decision regarding opium and the drugs mentioned
in the Schedule of the Advisory Committee, without adding hashish, the
latter will soon replace the other narcotics and will then become a terrible menace
to the whole world. It seems to me that it is better to prevent a disease than
to cure it...."
Col. Biggam, RAMC, Col, Manin, Saliall Healih Service, Dr Treadway, U.S.A. Public
Health Sersice, Dr. Charnot, Head of Toxicology, Rabat, Dr. souquett Chemist to
Tunis hospitais. Prof. Rodhain, Antwerp.' Appendix 3 of this Report.