Criminal Justice in Europe: A Comparative Study

By Phil Fennell; Christopher Harding et al. | Go to book overview

8
Managing the Drug Problem: Tolerance or Prohibition

JOS SILVIS AND KATHERINE S. WILLIAMS


THE HISTORICAL AND INTERNATIONAL BACKGROUND

The current drug policy of most states has a direct link to the early days of this century and earlier. It was at this time that the first steps were taken to bring drugs under (international) control.

As recently as the last century in Britain drugs, including opium (laudanum) and morphine, were freely available both for enjoyment and as the basis for many common remedies. Britain also had a large economic interest in the opium trade, especially to China. When, to protect their people, the Chinese authorities tried to block this trade, it led to war in 1841. Following this, the 'infant doping problem', and opium use by workers, the Quakers led a campaign which persuaded many British people that addiction to opium was a sign of moral depravity and that the drug was evil: the first step towards acceptance of regulation. Legal control began in 18681 when certain substances, notably opium, were placed under pharmaceutical control, but in practice they remained easy to obtain and the basis of many remedies until after the turn of the century. The first real control of drugs came in the First World War when, in 1916, the Home Office, through the Army Council, forbade the supply of certain drugs to any member of the armed forces unless administered by a doctor. In the same year Regulation 40B under the Defence of the Reahn Act 1914 made it an offence for those in the medical and allied professions to possess cocaine or opium.

In the Netherlands drugs were also freely available, though a curious Act of 1865 limited to medical practitioners and pharmacists the sale of opiate products of less than 50 grams while everybody else was allowed to deal in larger amounts. Drug policy in both the Netherlands and Britain has some of its roots in their colonial past. Intervention in the drug market by the Dutch government in what is now the independent state of Indonesia was legitimated by the proclaimed goal of reducing consumption and production in order to protect the unfortunate addicted inhabitants of the

____________________
1
Pharmacy Act 1868, s. 17.

-149-

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