In 1923 the South African Government sent to the League of Nations the suggestion that hashish should be treated as a habit-forming narcotic drug and brought within the scope of The Hague Convention. The Advisory Committee considered the matter at its sixth session and passed the following Resolution:
With reference to the proposal of the Government of the Union of South Africa that Indian hemp should be treated as one of the habit-forming drugs, the Advisory Committee recommends the Council that, in the first instance, the Governments should be invited to furnish to the League information as to the production and use of, and traffic in, this substance in their territories, together with their observations on the proposal of the Government of the Union of South Africa. The Committee further recommends that the question should be considered at the annual session of the Advisory Committee to be held in 1925.
The subject of Indian hemp or hashish was presented to the Second Opium Conference at
its sixteenth meeting by M. El Guindy, the Egyptian delegate, in a carefully prepared
address. In addition there were circulated two documents dealing with the subject.
The cannabis indica or sativa, called also by the name of hashish (English - Indian hemp; German - indianischer Hanf; French - chanvre indien), was known even in antiquity.
It was originally cultivated on the plateau of Persia and Turkestan. Later, it was introduced into Asia Minor and Egypt, where it was mentioned by chroniclers of the time of the Crusades. At present, the countries which produce it are Siberia, Russia, the Caucasus, Persia, the western plateau of the Himalayas, Kashmir, India and also South-Eastern Europe.
Researches undertaken with a view to determining the active agent of this plant led to the discovery of a product called cannabine, a kind of soft and brownish resin. An aromatic oil of an amber colour, whose inhalation causes dizziness and giddiness, is also derived from cannabis indica by distillation. In addition, it has been found to contain a certain quantity of nicotine.
The flowers, the tender shoots and the fruits of the cannabis are specially utilised. Only the unfertilized female flowers, however, are able to produce the resinous matter, as fertilisation destroys the active principle of the plant.
Hashish, prepared in various forms, is used principally in the following ways:
(a) In the form of a paste made from the resin obtained from the crushed leaves and flowers, which is mixed with sugar and cooked with butter and aromatic substances and is used to make sweets, confectionery, etc.; known in Egypt by the names of manzul, maagun, and garawish.
(b) Cut into small fragments, it is mixed with tobacco for smoking in cigarettes.
(c) The Indian hemp is simply smoked in special hookahs, called gozah.
We must next consider the effects which are produced by the use of hashish and distinguish between:
(1) Acute hashishism, and
(2) Chronic hashishism.
Taken in small doses, hashish at first produces an agreeable inebriation, a sensation of well-being and a desire to smile; the mind is stimulated. A slightly stronger dose brings a feeling of oppression and of discomfort. There follows a kind of hilarious and noisy delirium in persons of a cheerful disposition, but the delirium takes a violent form in persons of violent character. It should be noted that the behaviour under the influence of the delirium is always related to the character of an individual. The state of inebriation or delirium is followed by slumber, which is usually peaceful but sometimes broken by nightmares. The awakening is not unpleasant; there is a slight feeling of fatigue, but it soon passes.
Hashish absorbed in large doses produces a furious delirium and strong physical agitation; it predisposes to acts of violence and produces a characteristic strident laugh. This condition is followed by a veritable stupor, which cannot be called sleep. Great fatigue is felt on awakening, and the feeling of depression may last for several days.
The habitual use of hashish brings on chronic hashishism.
The countenance of the addict becomes gloomy, his eye is wild and the expression of his face stupid. He is silent; has no muscular power; suffers from physical ailments, heart troubles, digestive troubles, etc.; his intellectual faculties gradually weaken and the whole organism decays. The addict very frequently becomes neurasthenic and, eventually, insane.
In general, the absorption of hashish produces hallucinations, illusions as to time and place, fits of trembling, and convulsions.
A person under the influence of hashish presents symptoms very similar to those of hysteria.
From the therapeutic point of view, science has not made much use of hashish with good results. It has, however, been administered with some success in certain cases of delirium tremens.
Taken thus occasionally and in small doses, hashish perhaps does not offer much danger, but there is always the risk that once a person begins to take it, he will continue. He acquires the habit and becomes addicted to the drug, and, once this has happened, it is very difficult to escape. Notwithstanding the humiliations and penalties inflicted on addicts in Egypt, they always return to their vice. They are known as "hashashees," which is a term of reproach in our country, and they are regarded as useless derelicts.
Chronic hashishism is extremely serious, since hashish is a toxic substance, a poison against which no effective antidote is known. It exercises a sedative and hypnotic effect, and is prescribed in the following doses: The extract, from 0.015 gr. to 0.06 gr.
The tincture, from 5 to 15 drops. Generally speaking, hashish is not very much used in medical practice, and its results are a matter of controversy.
In view of the great danger involved by the consumption of hashish, special measures have been taken by the Egyptian Government.
As early as 1868, Dr. Mohammad Ali Bey made a report to the competent authorities regarding the accidents caused by the abuse of hashish. In 1884, the cultivation of this plant was forbidden. The cafés (or mashhashas) in which hashish was consumed by smoking in special hookahs were closed, and are still mercilessly sought out by the police.
Measures were taken to prevent the production and importation of cannabis indica; the following are the chief of those measures:
All cultivation of cannabis indica is prohibited, and the cultivator is liable to a fine of £E 50 (equal to about 26 gold francs) per feddau or fraction of a feddau (the feddau is equal to 4,200.83 square metres).
As regards importation, smuggled hashish used a few years ago to be confiscated and resold to agents for exportation. At present, the goods confiscated are destroyed and a fine of £E 10 per kilogramme is imposed on the clandestine importer. However small may be the quantity imported, the fine cannot be less than £E 2.
It is interesting to note the quantities of hashish that have been confiscated as a result of the measures taken by the Egyptian Government.
The following quantities were seized by the Customs Administration:
Kg. of Hashish In 1919 2,709,535 1920 1,869,199 1921 621,822 1922 173,468 1923 2,128,864 1924 3,262,227
The following quantities were seized by the Coastguards Administration:
Kg. of Hashish In 1920 3,697,648 1921 1,775,235 1922 1,223,842 1923 2,708,169 1924 2,262,350
Unfortunately, I have no information regarding the quantities seized by the police, which must certainly be greater than the above-mentioned figures. There can be no doubt, however, that the goods confiscated represent only a small fraction of what is introduced clandestinely.
It is known, for example, that in a single year (about 1909) more than 140,000 pounds of hashish were consumed in Egypt.
Some idea of the ravages produced by these enormous quantities of hashish clandestinely consumed may be gained from the fact that the real requirements of the country hardly exceed 20-30 kilogrammes annually.
For example, the requirements of hashish for medical purposes in an average year may be estimated at
11.165 kilos of extract, 1.331 " of soft extract, 12.375 " of tincture.
In 1919, the Egyptian Government allowed the importation of 65 kilogrammes of hashish for medical purposes and in 1920 of 23 kilogrammes.
The illicit use of hashish is the principal cause of most of the cases of insanity occurring in Egypt. In support of this contention, it may be observed that there are three times as many cases of mental alienation among men as among women, and it is an established fact that men are much more addicted to hashish than women. (In Europe, on the contrary, it is significant that a greater proportion of cases of insanity occur among women than among men.)
Generally speaking, the proportion of cases of insanity caused by the use of hashish varies from 3 to 60 percent of the total number of cases occurring in Egypt.
At the conclusion of M. El Guindy's speech, Dr. Sze expressed the approval of the Chinese Delegation of the proposal that the Conference should do what it could to remove the danger threatened to humanity by this drug. Mr. Porter in behalf of the American Delegation declared:
The very carefully prepared statement of the Delegate of Egypt, together with my own knowledge on the subject, have satisfied me that we are under an obligation in this Conference to do everything we can to assist the Egyptian and Turkish people to rid themselves of this vice. We are asking them to help us to destroy the vice of opium, coca leaves and their derivatives, and I believe that this is a good time to practise a little reciprocity. They have their troubles and we have ours, and I can see no reason why this Conference, aided as it is by the distinguished men on Sub-Committee F, should not deal with this question. Happily, as I understand it, no question of revenue is involved. That fact ought to make the solution muche easier.
Mr. Clayton, in behalf of the Indian Delegation, said that, though his Government would
no doubt view with sympathy the proposal of the Egyptian Delegation, it would be
impossible for his Government, in the state of its present knowledge, to enter into any
precise engagement with regard to it, and that, in fact, he had not been aware that the
question of hashish would be raised, and had therefore no instructions regarding it.
Later, the Indian Delegation reported that he had communicated with his Government and had
received a reply that it would be able to coöperate to the extent of controlling the
export of the drug by applying the import certificate system.
The Government of India has not yet had time to consult Provincial Governments and the Governments of the Indian States on the further question of controlling, in the manner suggested by Sub-Committee F, the production and sale and use of these drugs within the borders of India itself. The control already exercised by the Provincial Governments over the production, transport and sale of these drugs is of a very stringent nature. Charas is not prepared in India but is imported from Central Asia; import is controlled by licence. The production of ganja is prohibited except in small areas, the product of which is controlled by the excise authorities. The Government of India, however, at the present stage of their examination of the subject point out various serious difficulties of an administrative order in confining the use of hemp drugs to medical and scientific purposes; for example there are social and religious customs which naturally have to be considered, and there is the doubt whether the total prohibition of drugs easily prepared from a wild-growing plant could in practice be made effective.
For these reasons the Indian Delegation is glad to be able to promise the coöperation of its Government in limiting the export of Indian hemp to the needs of the importing countries as certified by their Governments by means of the import certificate system; but would be unable in existing circumstances to accept a proposal that the articles of the Convention should include the full extent of the suggestions put forward by Sub-Committee F in so far as they affect the methods of internal restriction applied by the various Governments in India.
In further explanation of the attitude of the Indian Government with reference to hashish, Mr. Walton, at the twenty-seventh meeting of the Conference, pointed out that one of the greatest difficulties with regard to control of its production arose out of the fact that the plant from which the drug is obtained grows wild and that the drug itself is derived from the plant by a very simple process. "Consequently," he said, "it is difficult to control the production of the drug, and the particular proposal to confine its use entirely to medical and scientific purposes becomes a very difficult matter from the administrative point of view."
Sir Malcolm Delevingne, in opposition to M.E. Guindy's proposal, argued that the Delegations most interested - India and France - had neither the necessary information nor instructions from their Governments to enable them to act. He furthermore questioned the competence of the Conference in the matter. He said:
It was not intended, when this Conference was summoned, that hashish should be discussed, and I do not think that all the ingenuity which different delegations have displayed in reading certain subjects into the Agenda will enable them to find hashish there. That is the reason why the matter is still, if I may use the expression, in an unprepared state. It seems impossible in those circumstances for us to do what the Egyptian Delegate wishes us to do, namely, by an agreement at this Conference to decide to bring hashish under the full provisions of The Hague Convention.
Mr. Bourgois, speaking for the French Delegation, said that he wished to associate himself with the views of Sir Malcolm. He further said:
From the medical point of view, there can be no doubt that hashish is very dangerous, and there is also no doubt that the Governments wish to remove this danger.
In France, hashish is treated exactly the same way as the drugs to which The Hague Convention applies. Each colony has its own regulations, based, in the first place, on local conditions and, in the second, on administrative possibilities.
I would like to draw your attention to the difficulties encountered on both these points. Without going into the subject in detail, I may quote the fact that in the Congo, for example, there are several tribes of savages and even cannibals among whom the habit is very prevalent. It would therefore be hypocritical on my part to sign a Convention laying down strict measures in this respect. I can undertake to have these measures applied in France, because this would be a practical proposition, but the same does not apply to the Congo.
M. van Wettum of the Netherlands Delegation said that he also was without instructions to discuss the subject. However, notwithstanding these expressed doubts as to the competence of the Conference, and the lack of instructions declared by several of the Delegations, it was voted to refer the matter to Sub-Committee F.
In a special report on Indian hemp (1) this Sub-Committee declared its opinion that the campaign against the narcotics derived from this plant needed to be organized on international lines. The report continued:
It should, however, be remembered that all derivatives of hemp are capable of providing, in addition to products injurious to public health, fibres which can be used in industry (cloth, cordage, matting etc.) and that the oil seeds may also be employed for domestic purposes.
That being the case, it would not appear to be an easy matter to limit the amount grown. An effort should, however, be made to adopt drastic measures with a view to prohibiting the growing of specially poisonous species and completely abolishing the traffic in the resin.
While effective practical measures could apparantly be taken fairly easily in highly developed countries this is not the case as regards Central Africa and Central Asia.
The growing of Indian hemp is prohibited by the Ottoman Governments of Egypt, Greece and a few other countries, while the protecting Powers have issued severe measures in Africa to achieve the same result, measure the enforcement of which will serve as a test of their administrative capacity and their influence on the natives of the centre and south of the continent.
After discussing the definition of Indian hemp and the distinction between the raw material and the resin extracted by various processes (the resin being the most dangerous drug), the Committee reported that it had agreed upon the following Resolution:
The use of Indian hemp and the preparations derived therefrom may only be authorised for medical and scientific purposes. The raw resin (charas), however, which is extracted from the female tops of the cannabis sative L., together with the various preparations (hashish chira, esrar, diamba, etc.) of which it forms the basis, not being at present utilised for medical purposes and only being susceptible of utilisation for harmful purpose, in the same manner as other narcotics, may not be produced, sold, traded in, etc., under any circumstances whatsoever.
This report and Resolution came before the Conference at its twenty-first meeting, with the result that a special Sub-Committee was appointed to give further consideration to the subject.
This Committee reported to the Conference at its thirty-fourth meeting the following text for insertion in the Convention:
(1) The provisions of Chapter V of the present Convention shall apply to Indian hemp. In addition and subject to the other provisions of Chapter V each Contracting Party undertakes (a) In the case of the resin prepared from Indian hemp to prohibit export except to any importing country which may not have prohibited its use, and in such case shall require the production of a special import certificate, by the importing Government, and to certify that the importation is approved and destined exclusively for the objects specified in the certificate and guaranteeing that the goods shall not be re-exported.
(b) In the case of Indian hemp each Contracting Party undertakes before issuing the Export authorisation referred to in Article 13 of the present Convention to require the production of a special import certificate issued by the Government of the importing country and certifying that the importation is approved and is required exclusively for medical and scientific purposes.
(2) The Contracting Parties shall exercise such effective control as to prevent the illicit traffic in Indian hemp, and especially in regard to resin.
It was also recommended that a paragraph (g) should be added to Article 4 of the Convention reading: "To Galenic preparations, extracts or tincture of Indian hemp."
These proposals were approved by the Conference and referred to the Drafting Committee for final wording. Only slight changes were made in the draft of Article 11 as reported by the Drafting Committee for final adoption by the Conference (thirty-eighth meeting).