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Last week, Canada became the second country in the world to fully legalize adult sales and use of recreational cannabis. While this new law marks a historic turning point in the progressive acceptance of marijuana after decades of prohibition, it has also placed the country in violation of several international drug treaties. This week, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement criticizing Canada’s decision to legalize weed, calling it a “gross and deliberate violation by the country of its international legal obligations,” UAWire reports.
By legalizing weed, Canada is placing itself in violation of three major treaties — the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention of Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Convention against illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Each of these treaties requires member nations to take steps to prohibit marijuana, along with other drugs, and do not condone member nations taking a “flexible interpretation” or creating “exceptions” to these rules.
The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that “the drug liberalization carried out by the Canadian authorities will become a serious obstacle to promoting the establishment of a strategic goal by the world community — to build a drug-free society,” UAWire reports. “We expect, that Canada’s 'arbitrariness' will merit a response from its G7 partners, since this group has repeatedly declared its commitment to the rule of law in interstate relations,” the ministry wrote, according to RT News.
Uruguay legalized recreational pot back in 2013, which also left it in violation of a number of international treaties, but the country has yet to suffer any global repercussions for their decision. It is unclear at this stage whether Canada will face any censure from other nations for their support of legal weed, beyond Russia's criticism.
Canadian authorities may be able to renegotiate their place in these international treaties by leaving them and then re-entering with specific exceptions for cannabis. It may also be possible for the country to just ignore international law, as Uruguay has done, and simply wait for the global tide of support for legal pot to shift in their favor. This year, the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) began re-evaluating their stance on cannabis in light of a growing body of medical evidence proving beyond a doubt that cannabis is an effective medical treatment for a number of conditions.
The U.N. has solicited advice from the U.S. and other member nations on the prospect of altering their international classification of cannabis, and if the organization were to officially accept the scientific consensus that cannabis is a medically-useful substance with little potential for abuse, then international drug laws could be amended to allow member nations greater leeway in determining their own cannabis policies.