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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.
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 provides a critical exploration of the European Union’s impact on the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) proceedings and Outcome…
This chapter provides a critical exploration of the European Union’s impact on the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) proceedings and Outcome document. It demonstrates that the ability to produce a European ‘common position’ ahead of the UNGASS debates represents a significant step forward in the ability to ‘speak with one voice’ in the global illicit drug policy arena, and has played an important role in ensuring key issues such as human rights and public health remain on the agenda. In highlights, however, a European failure to engage with issues such as the continuing suitability of the international drug conventions to preside over the current climate of drug policy innovation and experimentation, and the unintended consequences of a ‘war on drugs’ approach. Ultimately, therefore, it argues that these failures will hamper the development of a more progressive and effective global drug policy.
The purpose of this paper is to inform readers of developments in drug policy debate in Australia following the publication of the Global Commission Report. To explain the activities, discussions and findings of events organised by the Australian NGO Australia21. To provide some key contextual information and references.
Overview of international situation following publication of Global Commission Report. Summary of current Australian national policy and its origins. Summary of recent national reports and their impact on policy. Account of NGO reports and recommendations.
Civil society agencies have entered national debate on drug policy and recommended an abandonment of prohibition-based approaches, using the Global Commission Report as a catalyst. First steps have been taken to introduce this debate into the Australian parliament.
Incomplete knowledge of relevant national documentation.
Probable delay in government developing debate and acting on recommendations in an election year.
Case study of developments and debate in one jurisdiction resulting from Global Commission Report. Aligns with similar debate and moves in other nations. Adds to knowledge of developments which challenge existing international policy debate and practical approaches which reject prohibition.
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 Swiss drug policy once was very progressive in the 1990s when the harm related to drug use was most visible to the public. Failure of repression opened the room for…
The Swiss drug policy once was very progressive in the 1990s when the harm related to drug use was most visible to the public. Failure of repression opened the room for more innovative harm reduction approaches. In 2008, the four-pillar model including the legal basis for substitution and heroin-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders as well as for other harm reduction facilities was approved by the population that had learned about the success of these measures. Less violence, better health outcomes among people who use drugs and less stigma supported the change of attitudes in the population towards a public health-based approach when dealing with drug use. Switzerland first received heavy criticism for the autonomous policy change at the international level while it is nowadays often cited as best practice example for dealing with people with an opioid use disorder. Otherwise, the country has usually been quiet in drug policy discussions at the UN level. Nevertheless, Switzerland’s reappointment to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the central drug policy-making body within the United Nations for a period of four years starting in 2018 is promising, given their unblemished recommendation for human rights-based drug policies including the abolition of the death penalty for drug offences, among other things. Alongside cannabis policy changes at the international level, Switzerland witnessed an unexpected development in cannabis availability and sales. However, the country is still rather conservative with regard to current cannabis policies, although cannabis with less than 1% of THC can be sold legally and the possession of up to 10 g will be followed by a fine only, if at all. Switzerland is open to experiment with new regulations but only if the law allows for that. To conclude, the strong sense of connectedness with the international community may support Switzerland’s next steps towards public health and evidence-based harm reduction.
This chapter explores the historical context of drug control in the United States, the ongoing regulation of the cannabis market at the State level and the role of the…
This chapter explores the historical context of drug control in the United States, the ongoing regulation of the cannabis market at the State level and the role of the United States in the international negotiations related to the United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) on drugs in 1998 and 2016. We continue by analysing the position, allies and activities of the United States before and during UNGASS 2016 to provide an understanding of possible scenarios related to the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action review to take place via a High-level Ministerial Segment within the 2019 Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting. While US drug policy is not expected to positively shift in the next few years, State-level regulation of cannabis is expected to continue and create pressure from below.