Before Canada, Mexico or any other country can legalize marijuana across their respective nation, governments must first show the United Nations General Assembly later this year how they plan to make it happen while remaining in compliance with several international drug treaties.
A briefing memo sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which was obtained by The Canadian Press, suggests that the northern nation will have to divulge a plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana without violating three treaties, all of which make the possession and manufacture of the cannabis plant for recreational purposes illegal worldwide.
"As part of examining legalization of cannabis possession and production, Canada will need to explore how to inform the international community and will have to take the steps needed to adjust its obligations under these conventions,” the memo reads.
Not only will Canada’s sales pitch be required when the United Nation’s General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem meets in April, but the brief indicates that Trudeau’s legalization concept will need to be strong enough to essentially convince the world that this reform is a move in a responsible direction.
International law expert, Errol Mendes, a professor at the University of Ottawa, says that while the Canadian government basically has to tell the tale of “why it feels it has to do it,” the outcome, even if the debate is highly successful, will still result in marijuana legalization taking “many years” before it sees the light of day.
The three treaties that would need to be amended before Canada or any other nation could effectively end prohibition are: The Single Convention on Narcotic Drug of 1961; The Convention of Psychotropic Substances of 1971; The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
The note implies that a number of other countries interested in reforming their drug laws will also be forced to plead their case.
"At the meeting, several South American countries as well as Mexico wish to discuss what they perceive as more effective policy approaches to respond to the current realities of the drug problem, which could include decriminalization/legalization of illicit drugs, harm reduction, and/or a call to renegotiate the international drug control conventions."
Reports indicate that Global Affairs Canada, a governmental department handling foreign affair and international policy, are currently researching Canada’s obligations to the treaties.
In addition, Mexico’s Congress is schedule to begin debating the issue of legal marijuana later this month.
Although many hope that UNGLASS 2016 will result in international policy chances that take the heat off marijuana for those nations ready to engage in real reform, a recent analysis by John Coyne with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute suggests that while “controversial,” the upcoming UN meeting “is unlikely to be the game changer in global drug policy that some are seeking.”
Of course, it would certainly help if the U.S. government, which has stepped back and allowed a growing number of states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, would come forward and tender their support on the issue. So far, Uncle Sam seems very nonchalant about the efforts to legalize the leaf both north and south of its borders.