UN Narcotics Board Releases Contradictory Report, Calls for Human Rights and Increased Prohibition
In the International Narcotics Control Board’s new annual report, the UN agency confusingly criticizes cannabis legalization while encouraging countries to adopt “humane” drug policies.
Published on March 6, 2018

Photo via sanjitbakshi

Authorities with the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) released their 2017 annual report last week, touching upon topics across the world of drug use and sales, while suggesting fixes for a number of issues that the agency says overstep international narcotics treaties. But while the INCB openly advocates for a more “humane” approach to illegal drug interdiction, the report also rejects state and country-level cannabis legalization, essentially contradicting the earlier calls for compassion.

In the report’s foreword, INCB President Viroj Sumyai describes the agency’s goals for an ideal international approach to narcotics, citing both decades-old drug control treaties and a new humanitarian focus.

“Drug policies must follow an approach that seeks to promote the health and welfare of humankind,” Sumyai writes. “The three international drug control conventions provide ample scope for the international community to achieve this objective.”

But in the report itself, Sumyai and his INCB fellows focus intently on the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty restricting the legalization of drugs and allowing only medically prescribed access to substances including cannabis, cocaine, and hallucinogens. Throughout the report, the INCB notes their disapproval with recreational cannabis reform across the United States, Canada, and Uruguay.

“The Board wishes to draw the attention of all Governments in the region to the fact that measures permitting the use of cannabis for purposes other than medical or scientific use are contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention,” the INCB report states.

“The Board notes with concern that in Canada, draft legislation intended to authorize and regulate the nonmedical consumption of cannabis was introduced in the House of Commons in April 2017,” the report adds. “As the Board has stated repeatedly, if passed into law, provisions of Bill C-45, which permit non-medical and non-scientific use of cannabis would be incompatible with the obligations assumed by Canada under the 1961 Convention as amended.”

By focusing on an overarching policy that’s more than a half-century old, the INCB is sacrificing its humanitarian goals for the deadly status quo of cannabis prohibition.

In addition to the agency’s cannabis concerns, the INCB report details the growing opioid epidemic across America and in parts of Europe and Australia, calling for an increase in treatment options while decrying the “limited access to health insurance … [that] continues to impede the management of addiction and the provision of adequate care and treatment” in the United States.

But without connecting the glaring dots between cannabis reform and a decrease in opioid abuse, the INCB clearly demonstrates that they are more concerned with international political optics than actually fixing the world’s drug abuse problems. After all, it's hard to advocate for humanity while calling for nonviolent cannabis users, growers, and distributors to be arrested and jailed.

The United Nations’ narcotics control body lacks any significant policing power to actually intercede in state or nationally approved cannabis industries, but by ignoring the available research and data on the differences between cannabis and opioids, the group has only added confusion to the discussion around international narcotics policy and humanitarian goals.

(h/t: Marijuana Moment)

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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