Governing the Heroin Trade: From Treaties to Treatment

Governing the Heroin Trade: From Treaties to Treatment

Governing the Heroin Trade: From Treaties to Treatment

Governing the Heroin Trade: From Treaties to Treatment

Synopsis

Examining the historical, economic and political context for the current prohibition of particular drugs, this study investigates the problem of drug control and provides a systematic analysis of the development of the international system of regulation. It identifies the political rationalities that provided the basis of that system and positions these moral justifications for exercising power in relation to the practical programmes that put them into practice. The work not only catalogues the techniques and strategies employed in the process of governing illicit drugs, it also notes the failures, unintended consequences and other difficulties associated with getting such programmes to work. It will be of key interest to students and scholars of crime and criminology, law and society, medico-legal studies and health studies.

Excerpt

Internationally there is a long standing and continuing government and public concern about the use of psychotropic drugs. Diacetylmorphine or heroin, as the drug is more popularly known, has consistently been at the centre of attention. In 1983 John Kaplan called it ‘the hardest drug’ in his book of the same title, because there are no easy answers to the problems that are linked to its use and distribution. Twenty-five years later the 2007 World Drug Report produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime which is responsible for coordinating programs regulating illicit drugs describes how ‘unsurprisingly, the main problem drugs at the global level continue to be the opiates (notably heroin)’ (2007: 9). Heroin is a derivative of opium, and it is well known that opiates have the capacity to produce dependence in users of the drug, and as a result the problem of heroin is commonly thought of in terms of the pains of ‘addiction’. From a governmental perspective the problem of heroin and how to govern it is usually discussed as part of the broader problem of illicit drugs which make up a set of prohibited and strictly controlled substances specified in schedules to treaties which describe an international system of control.

Heroin is listed in the schedules to the ‘Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs’ (SCoND) which consolidated a world system of drug control when it was introduced in 1961. The drugs subject to the Convention (United Nations 1961, Article 2) are listed in four schedules. According to its authors, the last of these consists of a special class of drugs that are considered to be ‘particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects, where this liability is not offset by substantial therapeutic advantages’ (Article 3). They attract ‘special measures of control … having regard to the particularly dangerous properties of the drug’ (Article 2). Furthermore, if it is the most appropriate means of protecting the public health and welfare, parties shall ‘prohibit the production, manufacture, export and import, trade in, possession, or use of such drugs’ (Article 2). In 1973 Schedule IV included only four drugs – heroin was one of them.

Pharmacologically heroin has little in common with other substances included on this list; but bears a great deal of similarity to substances – like methadone – that are not subject to prohibition but are legally available albeit in highly regulated ways. What the drugs on schedule IV to the SCoND do share is their common status – their, production, manufacture, distribution and use are generally prohibited on an international scale and they are the focus of a coordinated and intensive system of global policing. These substances are collectively the subject of many authoritative . . .

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