This paper considers the findings of the Beckley Foundation's Global Cannabis Commission Report (Room et al, 2008), an overview of the scientific literature on cannabis, detailing its potential harms and those caused by its prohibition. It moves on to consider the various strategies that different jurisdictions have adopted to deal with cannabis use, before moving beyond the Conventions, arguing that countries should have more autonomy to develop policy best suited to their individual circumstances.Cannabis was incorporated into the global prohibitive regime via the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 1961), and is further affected by two later drug Conventions, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1972 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 1972) and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances 1988 (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 1988). Together, these require that all signatories make production, commerce and possession of cannabis criminal offences under domestic law: in the UK, this expectation is effected via the inclusion of cannabis in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (HM Government, 1971). In the half century since the initial Convention was drafted, patterns of cannabis consumption have altered fundamentally; smoking cannabis has transformed from a relatively rare behaviour confined to a scattering of countries and cultures, to almost a rite of passage among young people in many nations. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2009) estimates that there is a global population of 190 million cannabis users, rendering it by far the most widely used illicit drug, yet, paradoxically, one that is rarely mentioned in international drug control policy discussions.
In the years leading up to United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), Southeast Asia drew the attention of the drug policy world because of its refusal to…
In the years leading up to United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), Southeast Asia drew the attention of the drug policy world because of its refusal to drop the goal of becoming a drug-free region and for the extreme methods used in striving to achieve it. This chapter presents an analysis of the official positions taken by governments in the regional body known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations from before until after the UNGASS in the context of one of the most punitive drug policy environments in the world and offers a perspective on what we could expect from them in 2019.
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…
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.
This chapter analyses major issues surrounding the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ) – the key mechanism through which the UN collects data on various facets of the world’s illicit drug market. As the ARQ is currently under review by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the authors suggest ways to incorporate the gains made at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem.
The UNGASS Outcome Document has, to certain degree, enabled the international community to move away from the simplistic goals of a drug-free world enshrined in the 2009 Political Declaration and towards a more comprehensive health- and human rights-based approach. The UNGASS has also laid important groundwork for the 2019 Ministerial Segment, where member states will delineate the global drug control approach for the next decade. In this context, the issue of metrics and indicators has a critical political role to play as it will shape how member states will measure progress against their international drug control commitments.
Starting with a review of the ‘triple trouble’ – poor data quality, low response rates from Member States and other inconsistencies that have long persisted with the ARQ – the chapter moves on to offer substantive critiques on the content of the Questionnaire and ways to better incorporate issues related to health, human rights and development. The chapter concludes by providing guidance on possible synergies with the Outcome Document and the Sustainable Development Goals, bringing international drug control in line with the UN Charter.
This chapter discusses the genealogy and development of the ‘access abyss in palliative care and pain relief’ affecting 80 per cent of the world’s people. It argues that…
This chapter discusses the genealogy and development of the ‘access abyss in palliative care and pain relief’ affecting 80 per cent of the world’s people. It argues that the larger context is an epistemic abyss constituted by incomplete information about the need for controlled medicines for pain relief, and that decades of drug policy based on supply control have prevented development of the necessary knowledge base in many countries. Transnational civil society organisations are working to map and bridge this abyss through education, advocacy and action. Deeper (original) systemic and tensions in the original multilateral drug control narrative produced the current epistemic/clinical abysses and now provide space for more participatory civil society involvement. Where the earlier narrative focussed on a fear-based drive to discipline and punish non-medical use of controlled substances, the evolving (and still contested) ‘world drug problem’ narrative foregrounds person centred, human rights based, public health approaches to drug policy that explicitly support improved access to internationally controlled essential medicines. Recommended policies can only be operationalised through a concerted ‘all hands on deck’ effort guided by the international law principle of ‘mutual and shared responsibility’ for improving access within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This calls for enhanced communication, concerted advocacy, collaboration and pluralist praxis to fill the often gaping abyss between ‘black letter law’ — what is actually written in the drug control conventions — and how member states learn to interpret and operationalise it.
This paper seeks to analyse the content and implications of resolution 52/1 of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations (UN) titled “Promoting international…
This paper seeks to analyse the content and implications of resolution 52/1 of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations (UN) titled “Promoting international cooperation in addressing the involvement of women and girls in drug trafficking, especially as couriers”.
Drawing on socio‐legal analysis and an extensive search of UN databases, the resolution is contextualised and the findings of the resulting report which examines the scale of women's participation in the global drug trade is summarised.
The article demonstrates that the data produced are unreliable as a measure of women's participation in the international drug trade.
It is argued that this resolution is weakened by lack of clarity about how gender ought to be mainstreamed in global drug control.
As the first resolution on women and girls' participation in the international drug trade, Resolution 52/1 is a significant step towards raising awareness and systematically accounting for their participation.
This chapter explores the relationship between the global drug policy agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Development is one of the key…
This chapter explores the relationship between the global drug policy agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Development is one of the key pillars of the UN's charter; however, sustainable development and drug policy have existed in separate policy spaces for decades. During 2015 and 2016, two parallel processes took place at the UN – the adoption of the 2015 SDGs, superseding the Millennium Development Goals, and the 2016 UN Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS), a global convening of countries to create a way forward to address illicit drugs. This chapter explores how a group of reform-oriented countries, UN agencies and civil society stakeholders used the UNGASS to advocate for better policy alignment with development principles. While some headway was made, tensions remain about allowing a development approach into the drug policy realm. This chapter argues that given strong pushback to maintain a law enforcement-driven agenda by many countries, better alignment will not happen without more clarity on what sustainable development–driven drug policy is and without champions to push these ideas in the drug policy arena.
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs has provided countries with internationally agreed recommendations to adapt their drug policies for more…
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs has provided countries with internationally agreed recommendations to adapt their drug policies for more efficiency and better outcomes. This chapter focusses on the Russian Federation’s role in international drug policy, through an analysis of its national approaches and their design, as well as on its diplomatic efforts at the bilateral and multilateral levels to oppose drug policy reform. A systematic review of peer-reviewed, grey literature, policy documents, UN reports and news reports on the country’s response to drugs internally and externally was conducted between September and December 2017. Despite its efforts to oppose drug policy reform and the prioritisation of public health, the Russian Federation faces major epidemics of imprisonment and HIV. Internationally, while it has not been successful in addressing the ongoing reforms in Europe and the Americas, it has been effective in preserving its international priorities by opposing harm reduction and maintaining the prohibition paradigm at the multilateral level.