1909 CE
The International Opium Commission takes place in Shanghai

The International Opium Commission on narcotic drugs convened in Shanghai represented the first time the actual situation related to the main producing and consuming countries was analysed in detail. In addition, the first attempts were made to come to an agreement on limiting shipments of narcotic drugs. It can thus legitimately be considered the starting point of the international drug control system. This conference laid the groundwork for the International Opium Convention of The Hague, which took place in 1912.

The conference was attended by most colonial powers, i.e., Great Britain, the USA, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Russia and Japan, as well as by China, Persia (Iran) and Siam (Thailand). The only country that was invited but did not attend was Turkey. Bishop Charles H. Brent, a USA delegate, was elected President of the Commission.

The Commission was dedicated to providing an evidence base and collected a large amount of data on cultivation, production and consumption. There was disagreement as to the aim of drug control. The USA attempted to set the foundation for an unambiguous prohibitionist global drug regime. Most of the other colonial powers favoured more pragmatic approaches to reduce drug production increase drug prices to reduce the health and social consequences of drug use. Nonetheless, the Shanghai conference revealed the value in approaching drug control multilaterally. One of the key decisions made at the conference was a bilateral agreement, which bound the UK to gradually end its opium sales to China between 1908 and 1917, and China to stop cultivating poppies within the same timeframe.

Source: This day in history: The Shanghai Opium Commission, 1909 (n.d.) UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Drugs: Opium (morphine, heroin, opioids)
Regions: Asia, China, Japan, Thailand, Europe, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), Iran, North America, Canada, USA (United States of America)
Topics: Prohibition, Taxation and regulation