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The United Nations warns that adult use of cannabis in the United States violates an international treaty

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The United Nations agency charged with monitoring drug law enforcement said in a recent report that legalizing non-medical (adult use) cannabis in some US states violates international drug treaties that were passed more than 60 years ago. In its 2022 annual report, the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) writes that the US federal government is not complying with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by passively allowing states to legalize adult use of marijuana within their borders.

The International Narcotics Control Board has regularly criticized countries that have allowed territories within their borders to legalize cannabis due to member states’ obligations under the 1961 Single Convention, According to a report from marijuana moment. But in 2022 Annual Report Released earlier this month, the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations International Drug Control Agreements appears aimed at state-level cannabis policy reforms in the United States.

“In states with a federal structure, a special issue may arise as to whether the federal government can be held liable if a federal entity implements rationing, which is in violation of agreements, while the federal government does not have the power to compel the federal entity to fulfill treaty obligations,” the INCB wrote. .

The International Narcotics Control Board added that member states are required by the 1961 treaty to “enforce and implement the provisions of this agreement within their territories,” even in countries with a federal system of government such as the United States. The agreement states that “unless a different intent appears from the treaty or is otherwise established, the treaty is binding on each party in respect of its entire territory.”

The International Narcotics Control Board asserts that “the internal distribution of powers between different levels of a State cannot be invoked as a justification for failure to implement a treaty”.

INCB provides reasons for maintaining the ban

The agency offered several reasons why cannabis would still be banned under the 1961 Convention, including the treaty’s view that cannabis is a highly addictive drug prone to abuse. The report also notes that legalizing cannabis use for adults reduces risk perception and leads to higher rates of consumption.

“The most disturbing effect of the legalization of cannabis is the potential for increased use of cannabis, particularly among young people, according to estimated data,” The United Nations wrote in a statement About the report of the International Narcotics Control Board. “In the United States, adolescents and young adults have been shown to consume more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized than in other states where recreational use remains illegal. There is also evidence that the general availability of legalized cannabis products reduces perception of the risks and negative consequences of their use.” .

The report adds that policy reforms have failed to achieve the goals of states that have legalized adult use of cannabis, including the desire to reduce criminal activity and protect public safety. The agency noted the persistence of illegal markets in jurisdictions that have legalized adult use of cannabis, including CanadaAnd Uruguay and parts of the United States.

“Evidence suggests that legalization of cannabis has not succeeded in discouraging young people from using cannabis, and illicit markets remain,” said Jajit Pavadia, President of the International Institute for Drug Control.

Jason Adelston, associate attorney at the cannabis law firm Vicente LLP, wrote in an article About the INCB report that the evidence cited by the agency does not support its conclusions about the success of cannabis legalization, including data showing a significant decline in the illicit market in jurisdictions that have ended adult-use marijuana bans. It also notes that the report calls on member states with jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis to prioritize INCB policy over their own laws.

“Essentially, the INCB argues that regardless of the constitutional limitations of the federal government, signatories with strong federal systems, such as the United States, must violate their own constitution in favor of drug treaty requirements to ensure local jurisdictions comply with drug treaties,” he wrote in an email to Cannabis Now. .

Adelston says the agency’s narrow interpretation of the 1961 agreement requires member states that do not have the authority to force their territories into compliance with the treaty’s requirements to take such action.

“This position is impractical, inconsistent with law and practical application, and dangerous,” Addelston continued. “If a signatory’s constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing requirements on local jurisdictions, or their citizens, then the federal government will not, and should not, impose such requirements. Advancing any other narrative is dangerous, and threatens the stability of constitutional governments.”

Despite the International Narcotics Control Board’s continued criticism of member states that have allowed measures to legalize cannabis for adults, the agency has not assessed any penalties against states that have allowed policies in contravention of the 1961 agreement.

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