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  1. How marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington is making the world a better place

    16 October 2014
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    No pressure, Colorado and Washington, but the world is scrutinizing your every move. That was the take-home message of an event today at the Brookings Institution, discussing the international impact of the move toward marijuana legalization at the state-level in the U.S. Laws passed in Colorado and Washington, with other states presumably to come, create a tension with the U.S. obligations toward three major international treaties governing drug control.

  2. Marijuana on the move

    26 January 2014
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    Some 20 years ago, a Spanish official in favor of lifting the ban on drugs such as marijuana mentioned at a UN meeting that there "might be a more humane option" in the fight against trafficking. She was immediately taken aside by a senior diplomat, who told her in no uncertain terms: "Don't say things like that round here, not even in the washroom." Today, the same official says that internal documents are now circulating within the UN that openly admit to the failure of prohibition.

  3. The Guardian view on overdue overhauling of US and global drug laws

    Icaria Editorial
    27 July 2014
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    The war on drugs has been a losing fight for 40 years.

  4. A top UN official is not happy about US states legalizing weed

    13 November 2014
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    The UN's top narcotics official said on Wednesday that recent votes by US states to legalize marijuana have put America in deeper violation of the international conventions that guide drug policy around the world. Earlier this month, voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC legalized the recreational use and sale of marijuana. Similar ballot initiatives have already passed and taken effect in Colorado and Washington.

  5. The UN really wishes that voters in Alaska and Oregon hadn’t legalized weed

    13 November 2014
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    The director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, said that state-level marijuana legalization initiatives in the U.S. are violations of longstanding international drug treaties. "I don't see how [state-level marijuana legalization] can be compatible with existing conventions," he said according to Reuters. Fedotov's remarks are coming less than a month after Assistant Secretary of State Brownfield outlined an official policy of "flexibility" in the U.S.'s interpretation of existing U.N. drug control conventions, which require countries to outlaw the sale and use of cannabis. (See also: Fatal attraction: Brownfield's flexibility doctrine and global drug policy reform)

  6. State Department official calls for 'flexibility' on drug control treaties

    13 October 2014
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    Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield called for "flexible" interpretations of international drug control treaties at the United Nations in New York City, citing marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.

  7. US signals shift in international drug policy

    12 October 2014
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    In a press conference at the United Nations in New York on October 9, US official William Brownfield laid the groundwork for a new US approach to international drug policy, pointing to the changing political landscape on drug regulation in the Americas.

  8. UN drugs body warns US states and Uruguay over cannabis legalisation

    03 March 2015
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    The United Nations has renewed its warnings to Uruguay and the US states of Colorado and Washington that their cannabis legalisation policies fail to comply with the international drug treaties.

  9. Reforming the global drug-control system: The stakes for Washington

    Martin Jelsma
    27 June 2014
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    The extent to which the ongoing drug-control reforms across the Americas are pushing the boundaries of the global legal framework laid down in three UN drug-control conventions has become a delicate issue. The decriminalization of possession for personal use in several Latin American countries and the establishment of a supervised injection room in Vancouver, Canada have already triggered protracted legal disputes with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the quasi-judicial organ for the conventions’ implementation.

  10. D-Day for Bolivia’s coca chewing amendment

    Martin Jelsma
    31 January 2011
    Other news

    Today is the deadline for countries to submit objections to Bolivia’s proposed amendment to remove the ban on coca leaf chewing in the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. As far as we know, six countries have formally notified the UN that they reject Bolivia’s amendment: the United States (January 19), Sweden (Jan 20), the United Kingdom (Jan 21), Canada (Jan 26), Denmark (Jan 28) and Germany (Jan 28). Some other European countries may add their objections today.

  11. Bolivia calls on Obama to back coca campaign

    11 March 2009
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    President Barack Obama should recognize traditional uses of the coca leaf because not all production becomes cocaine, Bolivian President Evo Morales said. Morales, a former coca farmer, also called on participants at a United Nations drug policy meeting in Vienna to lift a ban on coca for some uses.

  12. evo-morales-speech

    The condemned coca leaf

    12 January 2013
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    Last week, the United Nations voted on an appeal by Bolivia to amend the international treaty that prohibits the chewing of coca leaf. Bolivia won a partial victory — a tiny sign that the world may be ever so slowly coming to its senses on the insanely harsh treatment of this humble, mostly harmless plant and the people, mostly South American natives, who enjoy it in its raw form. (Ricardo Cortés is the author of A Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola)

  13. Bolivia launches coca leaf diplomatic offensive

    21 January 2011
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    Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca is on a European tour in a bid to drum up support for taking coca off a UN treaty on banned drugs. Spanish foreign minister Trinidad Jimenez told Mr Choquehuanca in Madrid that she "understood" Bolivia's demand and would try to mediate with other European countries thought to be considering an objection. Spain has already given its support to the Bolivian campaign. The US sent a letter to the United Nations saying it was opposed to the move.

  14. The coca leaf: Storm in an Andean teacup

    20 January 2011
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    The United States’ State Department’s website recommends coca tea for altitude sickness, and its La Paz embassy has been known to serve it to visitors. The UN’s declaration on indigenous peoples, which the United States endorsed last month, guarantees the protection of “cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions”.

  15. Coca-chewing Bolivians press for end to UN ban

    26 January 2011
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    Bolivians chewed coca leaves in demonstrations around the country Wednesday to push for a change in a 1961 UN convention to remove a ban on a practice that has been part of indigenous cultures here for millennia. Protesters gathered outside the US embassy in La Paz to chew the leaf as part of a day of demonstrations around the country celebrating the coca plant and demanding that the UN Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs be amended.

  16. Heroic Uruguay deserves a Nobel peace prize for legalising cannabis

    Simon Jenkins
    11 December 2013
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    The response of the UN's International Narcotics Control Board to Uruguay's new drug regime has been to incant futile bromides. According to its chief Raymond Yans cannabis regulation would "endanger young people and contribute to the earlier onset of addiction". It would also be in breach of a "universally agreed and internationally endorsed treaty". Yet the UN admits that half a century of attempted suppression has led to 162m cannabis users worldwide, or 4% of the total adult population .

  17. U.S. Renews Anachronistic Campaign to Stamp Out Coca Leaf Chewing

    Coletta Youngers
    14 January 2011
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    Just one month after President Obama announced that the U.S. would finally sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, U.S. officials are already violating the spirit – and the letter – of the agreement. U.S. officials are playing a lead role in maintaining an out-dated provision in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which attempts to abolish the centuries-old indigenous practice of chewing coca leaves. The 1961 Convention also mistakenly classified coca as a narcotic, along with cocaine.

  18. obama-yes-we-cannabis

    The US incapacity to enforce federal drug laws - and the global consequences

    Francisco Thoumi
    31 October 2013
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    The US drug policy is changing, pitting states against federal law. This essay explores this inner friction of contradictory drug legislation, and what it may mean for the international drug control regime, itself a result of US drug policy. (4,400 words)

  19. americans-legalisation

    The great experiment

    23 February 2013
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    A whiff of change is in the air regarding drug control policy. Officials in two American states, Colorado and Washington, are pondering how to implement their voters’ decisions last November to legalise cannabis. One immediate consequence is that the United States will be in breach of the UN Convention. Good. It should now join Latin American governments in an effort to reform that outdated document to allow signatories room to experiment. Imposing a failed policy on everybody benefits nobody.

  20. Time to push the reset button on the drug war

    26 January 2011
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    Most Americans believe that their country’s forty-year “war on drugs” has failed. Yet, despite the costs and growing opposition to US antinarcotics strategy across Latin America, the US debate on drug policy remains muted. It is time now to end the silent tolerance of ineffective, socially harmful laws, institutions, and policies, and usher in a serious national discussion of how to reform US drug control strategies.