International Drug Policies

By 1930, when Anslinger had become commissioner, the patterns of international controls had also been largely set, with the United States urging stringent repression and most of the rest of the world remaining indifferent or resistant. (The basic Hague Convention of 1912 would never have been ratified by more than a few nations had not the United States insisted upon its inclusion in the Paris peace treaties, which created the League of Nations in 1921.) Although the United States never joined the League of Nations, U.S. representatives were always given a voice in drug matters—and Anslinger dominated international deliberations, leading the U.S. delegations first to the drug-control agencies of the League of Nations and then to those of the United Nations (U.N.), even after his resignation as U.S. commissioner.

Anslinger's annual Bureau reports to the U.S. Treasury were also submitted as his official annual reports to the League Opium Advisory Committee and its successor, the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs. He could thus push his views in the United States as recommendations endorsed by the international bodies and, simultaneously, present them to the latter as official statements of U.S. positions.

Anslinger participated in the drafting of the 1931 Narcotics Limitation Convention, which imposed controls on the production of drugs for legitimate medical uses; he pressed for the 1936 Convention for Suppression of Illicit Traffic, which sought to persuade other nations to impose criminal sanctions on domestic distribution and consumption. When World War II isolated Geneva and ended most of the functions of the League of Nations based there, he arranged for moving the international drug agencies to New York City, where they continued to operate. After the war, he was the leading proponent of a Single Convention, finally approved in 1961, after ten years of drafting. It incorporated much of the U.S. law-enforcement orientation, including obligations upon members to control crops and production, to standardize identification and packaging, and to impose severe criminal penalties on drug offenders.

Although the Single Convention was widely ratified, many signatories ignored its requirements. Lacking enforcement sanctions, it had small effect. Some of Anslinger's more radical proposals, such as including the promotion of opium addiction in the definition of genocide, which he charged to enemies like the People s Republic of China and the Soviet Union, won no international support, but they played well at home.

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