The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

One of the key pieces of global legislation in the control of narcotics is the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, formulated and ratified in 1961. This treaty still influences much of the international co-operation on the production, movement and sale of narcotics across the world, and is intended to restrict the manufacture of narcotics to strict medical licensing laws and prevent the proliferation of illegal supply.

Its primary objective was to update the Paris Convention agreement of 1931 by including the increase in the number of synthetic drugs that had been developed in the interim period. Earlier agreements had focused on the control of opiates such as coca and opium and their derivatives. The 1961 agreement broadened the scope to include drugs such as cannabis and other similar drugs.

The legislation gave the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the WHO (World Health Organisation) the power to add, transfer or remove drugs into the treaty’s four Schedules of controlled substances.

Today, the treaty has been supplemented by the Convention of Psychotropic Substances, designed to pass international legislation on the sale, development and movement of psychotropic drugs such as LSD and Ecstasy. A further UN agreement to combat the traffic in narcotics also tackles the growing problem of drug-related criminal activity such as money laundering, slavery and terrorism. The treaty does have its limitations, but with further additions being agreed by countries around the world and the inclusion of the facility to add or transfer drugs between the four Schedules, the Convention on Narcotic Drugs is still one of the most comprehensive pieces of international drug legislation on the statute books, and one that most countries have ratified.