511.4 A 2/271: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation (Porter) to the Secretary of State

I propose to enclose following in letter to president of conference tomorrow morning. Do not release pending my telegram announcing withdrawal.95

β€œOn October 18, 1923, the League of Nations extended an invitation to the powers signatory to the Hague Convention including the United States to participate in an international conference which was called for the purpose of giving effect to the following principles subject to reservations made by certain nations regarding smoking opium.

If the purpose of the Hague Opium Convention is to be achieved according to its spirit and true intent it must be recognized that the use of opium products for other than medical and scientific purpose is an abuse and not legitimate.
In order to prevent the abuse of these products it is necessary to exercise the control of the production of raw opium in such a manner that there will be no surplus available for nonmedical and nonscientific purpose. The joint resolution adopted by the Congress of the United States May 15, 1924, authorizing our participation in the present conference, quoted the principles referred to in the preamble and expressly stipulated that the representatives of the United States shall sign no agreement which does not fulfill the conditions necessary for the suppression of the narcotic drug traffic as set forth in the preamble. Despite more than 2 months of discussion and repeated adjournments it now clearly appears that the purpose for which the conference was called cannot be accomplished. [Page 126] The reports of the various committees of the conference plainly indicate that there is no likelihood under present conditions that the production of raw opium and coca leaves will be restricted to the medicinal and scientific needs of the world. In fact the nature of the reservations made show[s] that no appreciable reduction in raw opium may be expected. It was hoped that if the nations in whose territories the use of smoking opium is temporarily permitted would, in pursuance of the obligation undertaken under chapter 2 of the Hague Convention, adopt measures restricting the importation of raw opium for the manufacture of smoking opium or would agree to suppress the traffic within a definite period, such action would materially reduce the market for raw opium and an extensive limitation of production would inevitably follow. Unfortunately however these nations with the exception of Japan are not prepared to reduce the consumption of smoking opium. Unless the producing nations agree to reduce production and prevent smuggling from their territories, and then only in the event of an adequate guarantee being given that the obligations undertaken by the producing nations would be effectively and promptly fulfilled, no restriction of the production of raw opium under such conditions can be expected. In the matter of manufactured drugs and the control of transportation an improvement over the Hague Convention is noticeable. There is however no likelihood of obtaining a complete control of all opium and coca-leaf derivatives irrespective of the measure of control provided. For manufactured drugs it is believed that by reason of the very small bulk, the ease of transportation with minimum risk of detection, and the large financial gains to be obtained from their illicit handling such drugs and their derivatives can only be effectively controlled if the production of the raw opium and coca leaves from which they are obtained is strictly limited to medical and scientific purposes. This the conference is unable to accomplish. In the circumstances the delegation of the United States in pursuance of instructions received from its Government has no alternative under terms of the joint resolution authorizing participation in the conference other than to withdraw, as it could not sign the agreement which it is proposed to conclude. We desire to make it clear that withdrawal from the present conference does not mean that the United States will cease its efforts through international cooperation for the suppression of the illicit traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs. The United States recognizes that the world-wide traffic in habit-forming drugs can be suppressed only by international cooperation but believes that for the present at least greater strides in the control of the traffic may be hoped for if it should continue to work towards this end upon the basis of the Hague Convention of 1912”.
  1. An undated telegram from Mr. Porter received Feb. 6, 6:44 a.m., stated that the letter of withdrawal had been presented at 10:35 Geneva time (file no. 511.4A2/270).↩