practicalities of legalising cannabis before legislating later this year. But there are the obstacles of three international treaties that makes cannabis illegal. The Canadian government has not said how it will deal with these obstacles.
Canadas United Nations Legalization ProblemsSchedule 1 drugs include LSD and ecstasy. World leaders believe these drugs are a serious health risk to the public. In an article in the Canadian Medical Journal, Steven J. Hoffman and Roojin Habibi, claim legalizing cannabis violates three international conventions:
- 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
- 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances
- 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Ignore the issues and legalise cannabisAlthough Canadians may not think it a big deal, breaking Canada’s word to the international community can bring all sorts of other ramifications. Professor Hoffman said you cannot just pick and choose which treaties to follow. This only encourages other countries to do the same. Signing up to international treaties gives Canada a real legal obligation. Professor Hoffman said the US had signed the same treaties. While the US has a federal ban on cannabis it is lenient on enforcing this on the states who have legalized it like Colorado and California.
Ask for special treatmentCanada can ask other treaty signatories for an exception to allow it to legalize cannabis, moreover to agree to uphold other parts of the treaties. This is difficult in practice with dozens of countries signed up to the treaties. It is unlikely that other countries will give Canada special permission to legalise cannabis products.
Revoking Canada’s support of the treatiesProfessor Hoffman said the simplest way to solve the issues is for Canada to withdraw from the treaties. They have provisions for this in the treaties. He believes the treaties are so old they do not reflect current thinking. The latest one is at least 30 years old. He said Canada would be withdrawing from outdated treaties long overdue for revision. The problem with revising them is getting all signatory countries to agree on changes. Some countries still have the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers. A country can withdraw from the treaties by completing the following processes:
- To withdraw from the 1961 and 1971 treaties notice must be given by July 1 this year for it to take effect by January 1, 2018. If notice is given after July 1, then it does not take effect until January 1, 2019.
- To leave the 1988 treaty, a country is eligible one year after the Secretary-General receives notification of intention to withdraw from the treaty.