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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Drug Addiction, Crime or Disease?

Drug Addiction, Crime or Disease?

Interim and Final Reports of the Joint Committee of the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association on Narcotic Drugs.


An Appraisal of International, British and Selected European Narcotic Drug Laws, Regulations and Policies


Miscellaneous additional information acquired in the course of this study seems worthy of passing note. In Switzerland the basic law of 1924 was revised in 1951 38 to give the Federal Health Service comprehensive rulemaking powers. But licensed physicians may acquire and dispense drugs without restriction, except for local regulations in a few cantons. Doctors may report addicts to the cantonal authorities if they believe the authorities should intervene to protect the interests of the addict's family or the community. There were 109 known addicts in Switzerland in 1954, and 8 offenses against the federal law, punished by fines of 100 to 500 francs and sentences of 1 to 6 months.39 France, which provides compulsory treatment for delinquent addicts,40 reported the detection of 129 addicts in 1953, and 93 in 1954.41 West Germany reports 4,374 known addicts, including 618 doctors,42 and has just adopted a new code, imposing rigid controls with severe penal sanctions.43 For many years the USSR disclaimed any drug problem in its reports to the U.N.:

"The social evil of drug addiction has been eliminated in the USSR as a result of the fundamental economic and social reforms of 1917 and the continuing rise in the well-being of the workers." But in 1957 the Russian Health Ministry issued new regulations,44 providing in part as follows: "All medical and pharmaceutical establishments in the USSR shall report all drug addicts, when they first come to them for assistance, to the psychoneurological establishments (or dispensaries) in the patient's place of residence so that he may be registered and given the necessary treatment.

"All medical establishments and doctors shall avoid prescribing narcotic drugs for a patient, particularly over a long period except in cases of absolute necessity, bearing in mind that it is carelessness on the part of doctors which is almost the sole cause of drug addiction in the USSR.

"The vicious practice of giving drug addicts prescriptions enabling them to obtain drugs shall be prohibited." Japan enacted a severe Narcotic Control Law in 1953 45 with graduated penalties of 5, 7 and 1-10 years for repeated offenses, including unauthorized possession. The law provides: "No narcotic practitioner shall apply narcotics or supply same for application or prescribe narcotics for any purposes other than medical treatment.

"Despite the provisions in the preceding paragraph, no narcotic practitioners shall apply narcotics or supply same to other persons for application or prescribe narcotics for the purpose of easing the toxic symptoms of narcotic addicts or curing the toxication."

The Republic of China has experimented with total repression in its Order of 3 June, 1955,48 involving the national emergency powers of the government "to thwart the policy of the communist regime of spreading the evils of narcotics." The Order required all addicts to present themselves to a court or police agency within one month, and to undertake to cure themselves (at their own expense, if medication or institutional care was required) within six months. Any addict succeeding in this undertaking "shall be exempt from punishment." For others, the punishment for being a drug user is 3-7 years' imprisonment (1-3 years for marihuana users), the same penalty is increased by two-thirds for a relapse, and for a third offense, the penalty is death. For the sale, transportation, manufacture or cultivation of poppies or opiates, the penalty is death (life imprisonment or death, at the court's discretion, if the offense involves marihuana). Other penalties include trafficking in poppy seeds, 7 years to life; dealing in the paraphernalia of addiction, 1 to 7 years; possession of drugs with intent to sell, to years to life; and possession of poppy seeds, not less than 5 years.

Anyone maintaining a place for the use of narcotic substances, for gain, is punishable by death or life imprisonment, and any government official or member of the armed forces committing any offense, or shielding a perpetrator of an offense, suffers the death penalty. The Regulations direct, "The suppression of narcotic drugs shall be completed within one year from the date of the promulgation of these Rules," call for the establishment of "a network of detection and intelligence services... by coordinating the work of all investigating agencies," and set up an elaborate system of rewards for informers and penalties for neglectful local officials.

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