The legalization of marijuana has been a hot topic in many places, and we aren’t just talking about the United States. Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has made it very clear that he plans to do just that during his term in office, a stark contrast to his predecessor, Stephen Harper, who was a staunch prohibitionist. However, he is running into an unexpected obstacle: international treaties.
Three treaties in particular offer a major problem for Trudeau’s ambitious plan to do away with the outdated (and ill-advised from the beginning, but that’s another article) rules that govern pot use within its borders. The most binding one is the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1962, but two others, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
CBC reports that Trudeau received a briefing note asking how the nation will fulfill treaty obligations that legalization would seem to defy. Trudeau acknowledges the problem, and has admitted that he may need to obtain international permission to move forward with his plan.
The last major effort to decriminalize the drug came in 2003, but it wasn’t the treaties that stopped that movement, it was the United States applying pressure to our northern neighbor. However, since that time four states have legalized marijuana with off-the-charts success in virtually any and all arenas, including law enforcement, squeezing drug cartels, and, of course, major economic booms, most notably in Colorado. This means they could receive less resistance from Eagleland, though that could change depending on the outcome of 2016’s presidential election.
Trudeau’s main tactic will have to be explaining how the legalization of marijuana would be a good thing overall. Since marijuana prohibition is easily one of the most catastrophically failed policies globally in almost every way, this should be a simple matter of using facts. He will also likely have allies with many other nations who are moving toward decriminalizing weed, most notably in Latin America.
The United Nations will most likely ask Canada to “explain why it’s doing it,” according to constitutional and international law expert Errol Mendes of the University of Ottawa. He also adds that the battle will take some time saying, “It will be an ongoing dialogue which has to be dealt with at the highest levels, and it’s not going to be an easy on, and it’s not going to be a quick one either. It’s going to take many years.”
Of course, with the runaway success in the areas of their southern neighbors that have legalized pot, it may make it a bit easier of a sell. That is, as long as the United States doesn’t take a backwards step itself by going back to their own failed Drug War policies that have led to the destruction of millions of lives over the decades. But hey, what are the chances of that happening?