Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 23, 2012

Botanical drawing of the opium poppy

January 23, 1912: The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague. This was the first international drug control treaty. Thirteen nations gathered in Shanghai, China in 1909. The International Opium Commission was formed at the conference in response to growing criticisms of the opium trade. The title refers to opium and its derivatives but Egypt with Chinese and American support wished to include hashish in the Convention.

India and some other countries objected to some of the language in the document. They pointed to legitimate usage in religious rites as well as social customs on the sub-continent. Wild growth of cannabis would make enforcement difficult. Shipments of drugs across borders needed to be controlled because of legitimate medicinal usage, as well. Later Conventions superseded this 1912 document. The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is the latest version.

As opium usage spread, more people became addicted. The Convention was the first concerted effort by the world’s leading nations to control the movement of harmful drugs. Immature seed pods of opium poppies produce a sap containing up to 12% morphine, a narcotic. The sap can be processed to make heroin. The process is laborious and takes multiple steps. Different methods lead to the production of #3 heroin, or smoking heroin, and #4 heroin, or injectable heroin. Poppy sap can also be used to produce valuable legal drugs, such as morphine sulfate, codeine, papaverine, thebaine and noscapine.

Hashish is produced from the cannabis plant. Cannabis has been around since at least 6000 BC when seeds were used as food in China. The plant was also used as hemp and woven into cloth. The Legend of Shiva mentions it as “sacred grass” about 1500 BC. By 700 BC ancient texts written throughout the Middle East mention the narcotic effects of the plant. By 1000 AD many texts were debating the pros and cons of hashish. By the late 1800s, India was importing 155-175,000 pounds (70-80,000 kg) of hashish per year. Drugs are expensive and to increase profits, are often adulterated with cutting agents, some of these even more dangerous than the drugs themselves.

Tao. Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whiskey and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither. – W. Somerset Maugham

The book can produce an addiction as fierce as heroin or nicotine, forcing us to spend much of our lives, like junkies, in book shops and libraries, those literary counterparts to the opium den. – Phillip Adams

Drugs and terrorism are very close, they feed each other. As the production of opium increases, the terrorists entrench themselves. – Mohammed Daoud

I don’t think it’s decreasing. There are poppies everywhere — in places where there were no poppies when we were young. The opium trade is still flourishing. Those who say it is decreasing are blinded by the SPDC. – Colonel Yod Suk

Also on this day:

Shaanxi Earthquake – In 1556, the deadliest earthquake on record strikes central China.
More Than Vases – In 1368, the Ming Dynasty came to power in China.
Greenbriar Ghost – In 189, Elva Zona Heaster was murdered but did not leave this mortal coil.

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