The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations drug enforcement body, is warning the U.S., Canada, and other countries that legalizing marijuana goes against their obligations under international treaties.
The panel is responsible for enforcing anti-drug treaties and wants to remind countries that, as per three drug conventions enacted in 1961, 1971 and 1988, legalizing cannabis is prohibited unless it is for medical and scientific purposes.
That would put the eight states, and the District of Columbia, in direct opposition of the conventions because they have voted to legalize the use of marijuana for adult recreational use. So too has the country of Uruguay, and Canada is close behind with Prime Minister Trudeau pledging that recreational pot will be available to of-age adults as early as spring 2017.
The INCB is unhappy with the developments, but there seems to be little they can do to apply the brakes. In a report released last Thursday, they say, “In its discussions with the Government of the United States, the Board has continued to reiterate that the legislative and administrative measures taken by several states in the country to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis for non-medical purposes cannot be reconciled with the legal obligation.”
“The limitation of the use of drugs to medical and scientific purposes is a fundamental principle that lies at the heart of the international drug control framework, to which no exception is possible and which gives no room for flexibility. The Board urges the Government to pursue its stated objectives — namely the promotion of health, the protection of young people and the decriminalization of minor, non-violent offenses — within the existing drug control system of the Conventions.”
The board reminds governments considering measures for opening up a recreational cannabis market that they must abide by the reporting and licensing obligations under international drug control treaties, like making sure that marijuana for medical purposes programs is carried out with competence, knowledge, and supervision. But for now, they are left merely wagging a public finger and it’s unclear whether the US and other countries feel any pressure to change their legalization plans.