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The Elephant in the Room: Cannabis in the International Drug Control Regime

Collapse of the Global Order on Drugs: From UNGASS 2016 to Review 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78756-488-6, eISBN: 978-1-78756-487-9

Publication date: 15 October 2018

Abstract

This chapter looks at the past, present and future of international cannabis control required by the UN drug control conventions in the post-2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session era with an eye on the next High Level Ministerial Segment (HLMS) at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019, and beyond. From a policy analysis perspective, the author meanders through the increasing tendency to legally regulate recreational cannabis markets notwithstanding the obligation enshrined in the UN drug control conventions to limit cannabis exclusively for ‘medical and scientific’ purposes. Taking into account relevant national and international developments, the chapter describes how the growing discomfort with the status of cannabis and the prohibitive and punitive approach stemming from the international drug control regime went through a process from soft to hard defections of the treaty obligations. The case of the Netherlands demonstrates the difficulty faced by reform-minded states in reconciling their wish for a different cannabis control mechanism with their obligations under international law, resulting in an incomplete regulation of its coffee-shop system, where small amounts of cannabis are tolerated for sale, but where the illicit supply to the shops remained unregulated. Subsequent more wide-ranging reforms to regulate cannabis from seed to sale in Uruguay, several US States and – in 2018 – in Canada, are clearly violating the obligations of the UN drug control conventions. Nevertheless, the HLMS will likely leave the elephant in the room untouched. The emerging paradigm shift regarding cannabis shows that a modernisation of the UN drug control regime is long overdue. This chapter discusses some of the options available.

Keywords

Citation

Blickman, T. (2018), "The Elephant in the Room: Cannabis in the International Drug Control Regime", Klein, A. and Stothard, B. (Ed.) Collapse of the Global Order on Drugs: From UNGASS 2016 to Review 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 101-131. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78756-487-920181005

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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