The Department of State to the British Embassy
The Government of the United States offers for the consideration at this time of the British and other interested Governments the adoption of a common policy having as an objective the suppression of the non-medical use of narcotic drugs in areas in the Far East now occupied by Japanese forces when such areas are reoccupied by the armed forces of the United Nations.
The doctrine that the abuse of opium should be gradually suppressed was written into the International Opium Convention signed at The Hague on January 23, 1912, article 6 of which provides that “The Contracting Powers shall take measures for the gradual and efficacious suppression of the manufacture, the internal traffic in and the use of prepared opium in so far as the different conditions peculiar to each nation shall allow of this, unless existing measures have already [Page 1073] regulated the matter.” Subsequently, each of the Governments parties to the Hague Opium Convention having possessions in the Far East enacted legislation which it deemed to be appropriate for the fulfilment of article 6 of that Convention. In view of the measures which have been taken during the last twenty years to combat the abuse of narcotic drugs, especially the coming into force of the Narcotics Limitation Convention of 1931,13 the prohibition at the end of 1935 of the exportation of opium from India to the Far East, and the enactment by the Chinese Government in 1941 of laws prohibiting all traffic in opium and narcotics except for medical purposes, this Government feels that the interested Governments, acting in concert, can now solve the problem of smoking opium.
The rising tide of world opinion against the use of prepared opium was vigorously reflected in a resolution adopted by the International Labor Conference at its twentieth session in June 1936.14 In its report entitled “Opium and Labor”,15 the International Labor Office stated that “opium smoking is injurious to the workers, impedes their social and economic development, impairs their health and decreases their efficiency and, when it is practiced continuously, shatters the health and increases the death rate of the smokers, and tends to reduce the rate of economic and social progress in the districts affected.” The International Labor Conference, taking note of this report, suggested the “drawing up and application of such additional laws and regulations as governments may consider necessary to bring about the cessation of licensed use of opium for smoking within five years” in countries in which the sale of opium for smoking is authorized.
Since 1936 the leaders of only one country in the world have deliberately chosen to encourage the use of prepared opium and other dangerous drugs. That country is Japan. Wherever the Japanese armies have gone the traffic in opium has followed. The Japanese military forces now occupy the Philippine Islands, parts of China, French Indochina, Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States, the Unfederated Malay States, Sarawak, British North Borneo, the Netherlands Indies, Timor, and other territories in the Southwest Pacific.
It is believed that in all of those territories there will be found organizations sponsored by the Japanese military forces for the sale [Page 1074] of narcotic drugs for other than medical purposes. The United Nations are now using and intend to use their military forces to the fullest possible extent to remove the Japanese forces from all of the above-mentioned areas. Owing to the presence of opium, opium shops and opium smokers in those areas, it is the opinion of narcotics experts that there would be danger of infection of susceptible individuals among United Nations forces because it has been well established that most persons who begin to take drugs do so because of the accessibility of drugs and close association with persons who indulge in them. It is believed that it would not be sufficient for the military authorities merely to declare opium shops out of bounds for, in the presence of opium, addiction might spread rapidly.
From the standpoint of the health and safety of the men of the armed forces of the United States, this Government is convinced that it will be imperative, immediately upon the occupation of a part or the whole of any one of the above-mentioned territories by the United States forces, to seize all drugs intended for other than medical and scientific purposes which may be discovered and to close existing opium monopolies, opium shops and dens. This will be the policy pursued by all American expeditionary forces under American command.
The Government of the United States therefore proposes to the British Government that it give consideration to the question of adopting a common policy in collaboration with the other interested Governments to govern the action of expeditionary forces under allied command. This policy would envisage each Government’s instructing its military authorities to issue appropriate orders, as follows:
Immediately upon the occupation of a part or the whole of any one of the above-mentioned territories
- To seek out and to seize all drugs intended for other than medical and scientific purposes,
- To close existing opium monopolies, opium shops and dens,
- To prohibit the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of prepared opium,
- To prohibit the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of opium and other dangerous drugs for other than medical and scientific purposes,
- To provide medical treatment for drug addicts in need of such treatment,
- To suppress the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs,
- To place under strict control all supplies of narcotic drugs for medical and scientific use, and
- To take the necessary steps, including the imposition of appropriately severe penalties, to enforce all orders relating to narcotic drugs.
Pending agreement with the interested governments for suppressive measures along the lines just mentioned, the Government of the United States reserves the right to take independently, in all localities where its military forces may be operating, suitable measures which may be deemed to be necessary for the protection of the health of those forces.
Envisaging that United Nations military control of territories will bring about a temporary cessation of legal opium smoking, the Government of the United States believes that such a break in opium usage will afford interested governments a unique opportunity to end once and for all legitimized use of prepared opium in those territories. It is the opinion of this Government that this opportunity may be lost if governments do not agree upon and proclaim beforehand a policy of complete prohibition of prepared opium in all areas from which they may drive out the enemy.
It is the belief of this Government that any loss of opium revenue as a result of the adoption of a prohibition policy would be more than offset by the resulting social and economic gains, as the productive capacity of the natives would be considerably increased and as there would follow a corresponding improvement in their standard of living.
This Government is firmly of the opinion that the adoption of a prohibition policy would facilitate the international efforts already undertaken to draft a convention for the limitation and control of the cultivation of the opium poppy strictly to the medical and scientific requirements of the world, and it regards the suppression of prepared opium in the areas now occupied by the Japanese as a necessary first step to that end.
The present time would appear to this Government to be especially propitious from a psychological viewpoint for the interested governments to proclaim their intention to enforce a policy of complete suppression of prepared opium and to institute other positive measures for the improvement of the health and welfare of the people of those territories. Such a proclamation would emphasize the contrast with the Japanese policy of using narcotics to poison and weaken those people and neglecting their health and welfare.
The Government of the United States accordingly further proposes to the British Government that it give consideration to the question of making a public announcement at an early date, simultaneously with similar action by the other interested governments, that immediately upon the resumption of control over a part or the whole of any one of the British territories now occupied by the Japanese, the British Government will take all measures and enact all [Page 1076] legislation necessary for the prohibition of the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of prepared opium and other dangerous drugs, except for medical and scientific purposes.
In conclusion, the Government of the United States, believing that the British Government is anxious to put into force in its possessions in the Far East laws and policies with respect to opium similar to those in effect in the United Kingdom in order to promote the establishment of uniform standards in relation to the use of opium among all peoples of the world, expresses the confident hope that the British Government will concur in and will cooperate in carrying out the policies and programs set forth above relating to the period of military government and to the subsequent reestablishment of civil government in territories in the Far East retaken from the enemy.
Copies of this aide mémoire are being furnished to the Minister of Australia and to the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of Canada and of New Zealand. Identical aide-mémoire, mutatis mutandis, are being delivered to the Chinese and Netherlands Ambassadors, and a similar one is being delivered to the Minister of Portugal.
- Copies of this aide-mémoire, dated September 21, 1943, were furnished to the Minister of Australia and to the Chargés d’Affaires of Canada and of New Zealand; the same aide-mémoire, mutatis mutandis, was delivered to the Ambassador of China and the Ambassador of the Netherlands, and a similar one delivered to the Minister of Portugal.↩
- For documentation regarding the Conference on Narcotic Drugs, held at Geneva May 27–July 13, 1931, see Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. i, pp. 646 ff. For text of Convention signed July 13, see ibid., p. 675.↩
- See International Labour Conference, Twentieth Session, Geneva, 1936, Record of Proceedings (International Labour Office, Geneva, 1936), p. 743.↩
- For summary of conclusions, see International Labour Office, Opium and Labour (Geneva, 1935), p. 62.↩