Own your ow legal marijuana business
Your guide to making money in the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry
Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 3 - Public Policy Options

Chapter 19 - The International Legal Environment

The 1936 Geneva Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs

Based on initiatives of the International Police Commission, forerunner of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), negotiations had begun in 1930 to develop a treaty to stem illicit drug trafficking and punish traffickers severely through criminal sanctions.[1][37]

In 1936, the Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs[2][38] (1936 Trafficking Convention) was concluded in Geneva. The U.S., led by Anslinger, had attempted to include provisions that would criminalize all activities–cultivation, production, manufacture and distribution–related to the use of opium, coca (and its derivatives) and cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. Many countries objected to this proposal, and the focus remained on illicit trafficking.[3][39] Article 2 of the Convention called on signatory countries to use their national criminal law systems to “severely” punish, “particularly by imprisonment or other penalties of deprivation of liberty,” acts directly related to drug trafficking.  

The U.S. refused to sign the final version because it considered the Convention too weak, especially in relation to extradition, extraterritoriality and the confiscation of trafficking revenues. The U.S. was also worried that if it signed, it might have to weaken its domestic criminal control system to comply with the Convention. In fact, the Convention never gained widespread acceptance, as most countries interested in targeting traffickers concluded their own bilateral treaties.

Despite its minimal overall effect, the 1936 Trafficking Convention marked a turning point. All the previous treaties had dealt with the regulation of “legitimate” drug activities, whereas the 1936 Trafficking Convention now made such activities an international crime subject to penal sanctions.


[1][37]  Taylor (1969), page 288-298.

[2][38]  Done 26 June 1936; in force 26 October 1939.

[3][39]  Taylor (1969), page 293-295.

Library Highlights

Drug Information Articles

Drug Rehab