Canada breaches international treaties for legalizing recreational marijuana

World Today

Canada will become the first industrialized nation to legalize recreational marijuana. While this decision received overwhelming support within the country, it also breaks international drug treaties that forbid its sale.

CGTN’s Karina Huber reports.

Come this October, marijuana will be legal for recreational purposes all across Canada. Each of its 10 provinces and its three territories will decide for themselves on the minimum age requirement and whether the private sector or the government will be responsible for distribution.

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, stated that “It is absolutely not our intention at this time to move forward on legalization of all drugs. We are very much focused on the control and legalization of marijuana because the current system is not working.”

 Canadians overwhelmingly support the decision to legalize recreational marijuana. This decision, however, violates the three international drug treaties Canada has signed, as the United Nations conventions restrict signatory countries from selling drugs – including marijuana – for recreational purposes.

The International Narcotics Control Board, also known as “INCB” that regulates compliance with the treaties, could impose minor sanctions against Canada. Regardless, lawyer Andrew Bernstein doubts it will.

“The only country that’s ever been sanctioned under these treaties is Afghanistan with respect to its poppy trade. We’re not really on the same scale here. We’re not exporting heroin around the world. We’re just legalizing cannabis for domestic use,” he said.

Uruguay legalized recreational marijuana and received no sanctions from the INCB.

Legal scholars like Roojin Habibi said perhaps the biggest problem with non- compliance is it weakens the whole notion of international treaties.

“You are chipping away at a system that is already being jeopardized from other quarters, from other countries. And it certainly does not help promote the rule of law on the international scene,” said Habibi. 

Canada could withdraw from the treaties and then reapply with a marijuana exemption, but there is no guarantee it would be readmitted.

Bernstein said it was better for Canada to stay in the treaties even if not fully compliant, as “there’s lots of things that Canada and Canadians are still very supportive of like prohibition of cocaine, opium-related drugs, things like that, and stopping international trafficking of those kinds of drugs.”

How the international community reacts to Canada’s new law still needs to be closely watched. Many other countries are considering legalization of marijuana, too, but are leery of running afoul of their international commitments.