Press Release Issued by the Department of State on November 11, 1931
Consul General John K. Caldwell, who is attending the Conference on Opium Smoking in the Far East now in session at Bangkok, on November 11, made the following statement outlining the position of the United States Government on the principal questions which are to be considered by the Conference:—
“This conference has been called, under the Opium Agreement signed at Geneva February 11, 1925, to discuss the situation in regard to the application of Chapter 2 of the Hague Convention of 1912 and the application of the Geneva Agreement. The basis for its discussions is to be the report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Control of Opium Smoking in the Far East.
“The position of my Government in this assembly rests on the fact that the Conference, although it is convened under a treaty to which the United States is not a party, is in fact a conference of certain [Page 703] nations who, together with the United States, are party to the Hague Convention of 1912.
“The American Government has accepted the invitation to be represented here today in view of the fact that the subject of the discussion is to be the manner in which nations which undertook joint obligations with the United States in the Hague Convention now propose to meet the obligations thus undertaken.
“My Government assumes, from the terms of the invitation which it received, that its views on the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry into the Control of Opium Smoking in the Far East are desired. For that reason, although in attendance at the Conference as an observer only, I take this opportunity of briefly stating those views.
“The Commission of Enquiry reports as its major conclusion that the gradual and effective suppression of opium smoking requires concerted action on similar and concurrent lines by all governments concerned.
“For many years past the system of monopoly in one form or another has been in effect in most jurisdictions in the Far East. Under the terms of the Geneva Agreement, entered into between the powers having possessions in the Far East, the government monopoly system was formally adopted by those powers as a temporary expedient to meet the obligation of the Hague Convention of 1912 to ‘take measures for the gradual and effective suppression of the manufacture of, internal trade in, and use of prepared opium, with due regard to the varying circumstances of each country concerned’.
“With regard to the Commission’s major conclusion and the Commission’s recommendation No. 1, my Government concurs in the view that the suppression of opium smoking calls for concerted action on the part of all of the governments in the Far East. It also believes that similar and concurrent action on the part of the governments concerned is desirable, but it further believes that the time has come when such action should lead more immediately toward absolute proscription. While prepared to lend all practicable aid to measures directed toward suppression of this destructive vice, the Government of the United States is not prepared to follow a line similar and concurrent with that followed by other governments so long as those other governments elect to retain the monopoly system and are not willing to attempt prohibition.
“There can be no question of my Government’s adopting a monopoly system or joining in measures to strengthen or continue the system of legalizing the traffic in smoking opium.
“The policy adopted by the Government of the United States under the obligations imposed by the Hague Convention of 1912 has been [Page 704] that of complete statutory prohibition of the importation, manufacture, sale, possession and use of prepared opium coupled with thorough enforcement of the law.
“As early as 1904, it was proposed that there be established in the Philippine Islands a three year opium monopoly to be followed by prohibition, but this proposal, in so far as it related to government monopoly, was rejected and the principle of absolute interdiction of the traffic was adopted.
“It will, I think, be admitted that the habit of opium smoking is injurious and that this holds true no matter where the addict resides. For that reason, my Government has felt that there is no moral justification for a double standard in this matter and that it would be entirely inconsistent to permit the use of smoking opium, by a rationing system or otherwise, in the Philippine Islands while recognizing the fundamental evil of the habit by absolutely proscribing the drug in the home country.
“The result of enforcement of complete prohibition of the use of opium for purposes other than medicinal is considered to have proved satisfactory in the Philippine Islands.
“The difficulties to be faced in enforcing this prohibition are fully recognized. In our own case, the long coast line of the Philippine Islands and their comparative proximity to territories where contraband opium may be obtained are factors which unquestionably complicate the task of detecting and preventing smuggling. The drastic nature of the prohibitory measures in effect, however, has made it possible to deal effectively with actual opium smoking when found within the islands.
“Furthermore, my Government feels that if proscription of all phases of the traffic were conscientiously enforced in all other Far Eastern territories, the natural factors that now aid the smuggler would be of minor importance among the practical problems which confront the enforcement officers of jurisdictions in the Far East.
“With regard to the Commission’s recommendation No. 2, the American Government concurs in the view that scientific research is desirable and that it should be undertaken cooperatively; but it feels that the harmful effects of opium smoking have been so well established that the effort should be devoted in the first place to the study of cures for addiction. In such measures the United States is prepared to cooperate and to exchange information.
“With regard to recommendation No. 3, the American Government concurs in the view that limitation and control of poppy cultivation are eminently desirable.[Page 705]
“With regard to recommendation No. 4, the American Government concurs in the view that the demand for opium for purposes other than medical and scientific should be regarded as illegitimate and that, in combating such illegitimate demand, organized public opinion and education are weapons that can well be employed.
“With regard to recommendation No. 5, suggesting measures to prevent illicit traffic, it is recognized that no matter whether the prohibitory or the monopoly system be adopted, smuggling is bound to be met with and will have to be combatted. It is the feeling of my Government, however, that the suppression of opium smoking is more nearly to be accomplished by combatting the evasion of an absolute proscription than by any other method.
“In conclusion, I may say that the Government of the United States most strongly urges frank recognition of the fact that there is but one real method by which to suppress the evil of opium smoking in the Far East or anywhere else and that this method is complete statutory prohibition of the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of prepared opium, coupled with active enforcement of such prohibition. Cooperation among the interested governments in the suppression of smuggling is a necessary corollary. In measures of this kind the United States is prepared whole heartedly and cordially to cooperate.”