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Drugs and the Law


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Appendix 5

Main Events in Twentieth Century Drug Control

Sale of cocaine regulated under Poisons and Pharmacy Act 1908.

International Opium Convention 1912 (the Hague Convention) requires states party to it to limit the manufacture, trade and use of opiates to medical purposes; to close opium dens; to penalise unauthorised possession of opiates; and to prohibit their sale to unauthorised persons.

Defence of the Realm Act 1916 controls possession of cocaine.

Dangerous Drugs Act 1920 implements Hague Convention. Although principally concerned with opium, the Act also places controls on the importation, exportation and manufacture of tincture of cannabis and preparations containing dihydrocodeine. It also creates an offence of being an occupier of premises permitting the smoking of prepared opium (compare section 8 of the MDA) and introduces the offence of performing acts in this country resulting in the commission of an offence contrary to a corresponding law abroad (compare section 20 of the MDA).

Second Opium Conference and Geneva Convention 1925. Discusses cannabis as well as opium. Introduces independent body to monitor and advise on matters relating to opiate distribution and control. Also sets up a system of annual reporting of drug stocks, manufacture and shipments.

Dangerous Drugs Act 1925 amends 1920 Act so as to restrict importation and exportation of coca leaf and cannabis.

Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Morphine and Heroin Addiction (the Rolleston Committee) 1926 recommends that prescription of heroin and morphine be permitted for the cure of addiction by gradual withdrawal and to incurable addicts.

International Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs 1931 introduces requirement for countries to produce estimates of drug consumption and other statistics. Limits manufacture of narcotic drugs to medical and scientific purposes.

Dangerous Drugs Act 1932 extends range of controlled drugs following 1931 convention and prohibits trade in and manufacture of opium and cocaine for other than medical and scientific purposes.

Convention for the Suppression of Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs 1936.

Geneva Protocol 1946 transfers functions of League of Nations, of which the United States was not a member, to the United Nations.

Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 1950 enables United Kingdom legislation to reflect Geneva Protocol.

Paris Protocol 1948 authorises World Health Organisation to report on any substance capable of causing dependence and which might warrant international control.

Dangerous Drugs Act 1951 consolidates previous Dangerous Drugs Acts.

Opium Protocol (New York) 1953 starts process of consolidation of international agreements.

Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.

Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Drug Addiction 1961 (the First Brain Committee) says further controls on heroin and cocaine not needed.

Dangerous Drugs Act 1964, passed to enable United Kingdom to ratify Single Convention, creates new offence of cultivation of cannabis.

Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964 introduces controls over amphetamines including making their unlawful possession an offence.

Dangerous Drugs Act 1965 consolidates previous Dangerous Drugs Acts including the Dangerous Drugs Act 1964 but not the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964.

Second Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Addiction (the second Brain report) recommends in 1965 the notification of addicts and that only licensed doctors be allowed to prescribe heroin and cocaine to addicts.

Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act Modification Order 1966 introduces controls over lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) including making its unlawful possession an offence.

Dangerous Drugs Act 1967 implements recommendations of second Brain report and introduces national powers to stop and search people and vehicles for drugs.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971.

Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 prohibits sale of substances to people under 18 if there is reason to believe that they will be inhaled or swallowed.

The Controlled Drugs (Penalties) Act 1985 increases the maximum penalty for trafficking offences to life imprisonment.

The Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 introduces measures to confiscate assets of drugs trade. Now largely replaced by Drug Trafficking Act 1994.

Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances 1988 (the Vienna Convention).

Part II of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 implements the Vienna Convention's requirements for regulating the manufacture and supply of precursors.

Drug Trafficking Act 1994.

Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 introduces mandatory minimum seven year sentences for people convicted for the third time of a drug trafficking offence involving a Class A drug.

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