The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)34

No. 4468

Sir: There is enclosed herewith, for your information, a copy of a Public Law 400,35 Seventy-eighth Congress, requesting the President to urge upon the governments of those countries where the cultivation of the poppy plant exists, the necessity of immediately limiting the production of opium to the amount required for strictly medicinal and scientific purposes.

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In compliance with this law, there is also enclosed the draft text of a memorandum, together with its enclosures, which you are requested, unless you perceive objection, to transmit to the British Foreign Office in such manner as you may consider appropriate. You may, of course, make such changes in the text as may be necessary to bring it into conformity with the mode of transmission. For your information with regard to enclosure 236 of the enclosed draft memorandum, the American Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at Tehran37 is being requested to transmit the text of that memorandum to the Iranian Foreign Office in such manner as he may consider appropriate, making only such changes as may be necessary to bring it into conformity with the mode of transmission.

There is further enclosed, for your information, a copy of the remarks made by the Honorable Walter H. Judd on the occasion of introducing House Joint Resolution 241.38

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
A. A. Berle, Jr.

Draft Memorandum39

There is transmitted to the British Government a copy of Public Law 400, Seventy-eighth Congress of the United States of America, approved July 1, 1944. In compliance therewith the Government of the United States urges the Government of Great Britain to give consideration to the advisability of taking such steps as may be necessary to assure that the production of opium in India and Burma be limited to the amount required for strictly medicinal and scientific purposes.

This resolution is an expression of the conviction of the people of the United States that drug addiction and the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs should be attacked at their source and that American citizens now serving abroad in countries where opium is produced and sold freely should be protected from the danger of acquiring the drug habit. It is generally recognized that production of opium over and above medicinal and scientific requirements is the principal cause of illicit traffic, of which the United States is one of the chief victims.

A long step forward towards the suppression of the abuse of opium was taken when the British Government on November 10 last announced [Page 1096] that it had “decided to adopt the policy of total prohibition of opium smoking in the British and British-protected territories in the Far East which are now in enemy occupation and, in accordance with this policy, the prepared opium monopolies formerly in operation in these territories will not be reestablished on their reoccupation.” This Government concurs in the further statement contained in that announcement that “The success of the enforcement of prohibition will depend on the steps taken to limit and control the production of opium in other countries.” In consonance with this statement, it would seem to be appropriate and timely to exchange views concerning measures which may be taken to secure the cooperation of the interested governments in the solution of this problem.

As a result of the decision of the British and Netherland Governments to suppress smoking opium in the Far Eastern areas referred to above and the uncompromising attitude of the Chinese and United States Governments, the legitimate market for smoking opium in those areas, formerly amounting to about 350,000 kilograms annually, will no longer exist. Consequently, in future, exports of opium will have to be limited to the demands of the world market for medicinal and scientific requirements only. During the period immediately after the war, it is estimated that the world market for opium for medicinal purposes will require about 400,000 kilograms of opium, whereas world production of raw opium for the year 1944 has been estimated by experts of this Government, in the absence of exact figures, as amounting to about 2,400,000 kilograms. There is also production in Central Europe of morphine direct from poppy straw totaling about 8,500 kilograms.

The Government of the United States is urging all opium-producing countries with which it has friendly relations to take steps to limit production to medical and scientific requirements. It hopes that this action will clear the way for a conference for the purpose of drafting a suitable poppy limitation convention, preparations for which were undertaken several years ago by the Opium Advisory Committee.40

In the hope of expediting and promoting agreement, the United States Government suggests that the proposed convention should contain provisions:

Stating in clear language that its objectives are (a) to suppress the abuse of narcotic drugs and (b) to supplement the Hague Opium Convention of 1912.
Restricting the cultivation of opium poppies for the production of raw opium to the countries which have been producing opium in [Page 1097] quantity for many years and restricting the number of countries which may export opium to not more than five of the largest producers.
Restricting the cultivation of opium poppies for the direct extraction of morphine to present or lower levels, and prohibiting the exportation of any of the extracted morphine.
Establishing a control body consisting of not more than seven members who shall have adequate powers to enforce compliance with their decisions.
Requiring all countries and territories to submit estimates of their requirements for raw opium annually to the Control Body.
Specifying that each opium producing-exporting country be allotted by the Control Body an annual production and export quota.
Requiring all importing countries and territories to buy in a given year the quantities of opium estimated as needed for that year.
Assuring the producer a fair return.
Requiring the standardization of opium by all producers.
Requiring the licensing and complete control of all cultivators by the national authorities with the submission annually of accurate statistics covering the area cultivated and the quantity of opium produced.
Incorporating a system of complete and absolute government control over the distribution of opium and any products of the poppy containing morphine, and over stocks.
Stipulating that the parties to the proposed convention which are not parties to the Geneva Drug Convention of 1925 agree to apply Chapter V of the latter convention, which sets up a system of import permits and export authorizations for the control of the international trade in opium and other dangerous drugs.
Prohibiting a producing country which becomes a party to the convention from supplying, directly or indirectly, consuming countries which have not become parties to the convention, and prohibiting consuming countries which become parties to the convention from buying from producing countries which have not become parties to the convention.
Stipulating that opium coming from States which are not parties to the convention shall not be allowed to pass through the territory of parties to the convention.
Calling for the prohibition of the manufacture, importation, exportation, and use of smoking opium, and the closing of opium monopolies.
Stipulating that a consuming country, either in the event of a demonstrated discrimination against a consuming country in the matter of supply, or in the event of an emergency arising which interferes with or closes the existing source of supply of the said consuming country, may become a producing country, but only with the consent of the Control Body.
Insuring the absolute and complete independence of the Control Body.
Establishing a businesslike and specific arrangement whereby the parties to the convention accept responsibility for and agree to pay each their fair share of the cost of implementation through machinery set up by the convention.

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This Governments hopes that the British Government on its part will fulfil the intention expressed in its statement of November 10, 1943, referred to above, to “consult the governments of other countries concerned with a view to securing their effective cooperation in the solution of this problem.” In this connection, it is realized that it will be fruitless to convene a poppy limitation conference unless Iran is willing to participate therein. The Government of the United States is presenting to the Iranian Foreign Office at Tehran a memorandum strongly urging the Iranian Government to limit the production of opium to medicinal and scientific requirements and to cooperate in the work of drafting a poppy limitation convention. That memorandum is along the lines of the copy which is attached hereto.41 If the British Government could see its way clear to make appropriate representations to the Iranian Government, it is believed that the Iranian Government might give favorable consideration to the proposed program. This suggestion is also being made to the Soviet Government. It may also be pointed out that if most of the opium-producing countries were to make sacrifices for the common good by limiting production to an authorized proportion of the total quantity of opium required by the world for medical and scientific purposes, and one country were to continue to produce between 200 and 300 tons annually for its own non-medical use, such a reservoir would inevitably be drawn upon by illicit traffickers for their supplies.

Pending the entering into effect of an international poppy limitation convention, this Government suggests that it would be helpful if the British Government would give immediate consideration to the advisability of taking any steps necessary with a view to the announcement at the earliest possible moment that the Governments of India and Burma will hereafter prohibit the production and the export of opium for other than strictly medicinal and scientific purposes, and will take effective measures to prevent illicit production of opium in their territories and illicit traffic in opium from their territories.

The Government of the United States is urging each of the opium-producing countries with which it has friendly relations to make similar announcements believing that such action would go far to ensure the success of the prohibition of the use of prepared opium in the Far East and to safeguard all countries against the possibility of an era of increased drug addiction similar to that which followed the first World War.

Before it will be possible to resume international discussions in the Opium Advisory Committee or other body on the main principles [Page 1099] to be included in a poppy control convention, a large amount of preparatory work remains to be done. This Government feels that much progress could and should be made during the present year, and accordingly ventures to suggest two problems the early solution of which would facilitate the preparatory work.

The first of these problems is the matter of exports of opium from India. The position of the Government of India was set forth in the following statement, dated February 24, 1939, which was circulated in League of Nations document No. O.C. 1751 (e), March 6, 1939:

“Since the beginning of 1936, exports of opium from India had practically ceased except for shipments of opium for medical purposes to the United Kingdom and very small despatches of raw opium to a few other places, viz., French and Portuguese Settlements in India, Nepal, Zanzibar and Pemba. The exports to these latter places are allowed in accordance with long standing practice and are subject to arrangements which confine the amount of such exports to the quantities approved by the Governments of those countries. Opium is also exported to Burma and Aden; before 1937, these territories formed an integral part of India and it has been decided to continue to allow them to draw their supplies of opium from India at cost price so long as they require them. It will thus be noticed that India is not an exporting country in any substantial sense.”

It would be helpful if the British Government could furnish this and other interested governments with details in regard to its intended future policy concerning the export of opium from India to supply either medical or non-medical needs. Presumably it may wish to modify the position taken in 1939 and not authorize shipments for use in the manufacture of smoking opium, in view of the changes brought about by the war and its decision of November 10, 1943 to prohibit smoking opium in its Far Eastern territories.

The second problem relates to the Indian States. The position of the Government of India is also contained in the statement of February 24, 1939 referred to above, as follows:

“I am to add that the Government of India are not at present in a position to enter into any binding obligations on behalf of any part of India except British India. As will be seen from paragraphs 3 and 4 below, they have already secured a large measure of cooperation from the States in all work for opium control and have every reason to hope that they will have increasing success in this direction. This, however, is secured by persuasion and not by injunction, and it is therefore necessary to make a formal reservation on behalf of the States. The other parties need be the less concerned about such a formal declaration for the reasons that the Government of India control the only routes by which opium from the producing States can reach any country outside India and that, so far as India is concerned, it is the interest, as well as the duty, of the Governments of the British Indian provinces and of those States which are most closely collaborating with the Government of India to secure that [Page 1100] smuggling of opium out of the producing States is reduced to a minimum.”

This policy had been previously applied. When signing the Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs dated June 26, 1936,43 the delegate of the Government of India declared, “That India makes its acceptance of the Convention subject to the reservation that the said Convention does not apply to the Indian States or to the Shan States (which are part of British India).” In as much as the Indian States number about 570, contain over one-fifth of the whole population of India, produce annually about 185,000 kilograms of opium, and have licensed more than 8,000 shops for selling opium, it is felt that the Indian States should be represented directly or indirectly at any conference or meeting which may assemble to draft a poppy limitation convention. Otherwise, an important part of world opium production would escape control; and unless all opium production is brought under control the task of drafting a poppy limitation convention will be rendered impossible of accomplishment.

The Government of the United States believes that the British Government will agree that it would be of assistance at this time if the British Government would indicate whether it will be possible in future to have the Indian States represented at international conferences relating to opium or, if not, whether the British Government will be prepared to enter into binding obligations with other countries on behalf of those states.

With regard to the smuggling of opium out of the producing areas in India, the United States has an interest in the situation in India because recently it has been receiving opium in the illicit traffic from India as reported in this Government’s reports for the years 1942 and 1943 on the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs. Indian opium has also recently appeared in the illicit traffic in Canada. The existence of illicit traffic in opium in India is disclosed in League of Nations document No. O.C./A.R. 1940/60, dated September 25, 1943, which is the annual report of the Government of India on opium and other dangerous drugs for the year 1940:

“Opium continued to be smuggled from the poppy producing areas of Kaya Khabal, Amb, Sher Carh, Phulra and Candaf situated on the border of Nazara and Mardan Districts of the North-West Frontier Province, Afghanistan and Nepal. As in previous years, there was a considerable amount of illicit traffic in opium from the unadministered territories along the North East Frontier of Assam and from the Punjab Hill States, the States of Rajputana and Central [Page 1101] India, the States of Tipperah and Cooch Behar and from the Hukong Valley.”

The Government of the United States also has a particular interest at this time in the quantity of opium produced annually in India, which has fluctuated between 250,000 and 350,000 kilograms in the past few years, because of the presence in India of large numbers of American soldiers and American merchant seamen. As a means of protecting the health of those men this Government urges the British Government to give immediate consideration to the problem of surplus opium now existing in India.

It would be appreciated if the British Government would communicate to this Government its views with regard to the above matters, including its observations concerning the provisions which this Government has suggested be incorporated in the proposed poppy limitation convention. It would also be appreciated if the British Government would inform this Government at an early date whether it is prepared to make the suggested announcement concerning the limitation of the production of opium to medicinal and scientific requirements.

Washington, July . . , 1944.

  1. Instructions alike in purport and with similar enclosures were transmitted on the same date to the following Missions: 138 to Kabul; 786 to Chungking; 465 to Ankara; 279 to Moscow; 20 to London, to the Mission near the Yugoslav Government in Exile (none printed). Instruction 6362 to Mexico City, was dated October 5, 1944 (not printed).
  2. Approved July 1, 1944; 58 Stat. 674.
  3. The draft memorandum to the Iranian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, supra.
  4. Richard Ford.
  5. For text of Congressman Judd’s remarks, see Congressional Record, vol. 90, pt. 2, pp. 1932–1936.
  6. Substantially the same text and enclosures transmitted to the British Foreign Office on September 8, 1944.
  7. An organ of the League of Nations whose functions were to investigate and report on existing narcotic conditions and recommend the action to be taken by the League and by governments.
  8. Ante, p. 1091.
  9. For text of Convention, see League of Nations, Records of the Conference for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs (Geneva, June 8th to 26th, 1936), Text of the Debates (Geneva, 1936), p. 217.