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  1. Pushing treaty limits?

    Wells C. Bennett
    19 October 2014
    Multi-media

    Suppose the United States government helps to negotiate, and subsequently champions, certain framework treaties – ones justly viewed as imposing significant constraints on all signatories. Down the road, the United States occasionally even calls out counterparties for their looser policy innovations, when the latter push the outer boundaries of what’s permitted under the treaties; a treaty-created monitoring body does likewise in its annual reporting. This pattern essentially holds year in and year out and from one presidential administration to the next.

  2. Has the US just called for unilateral interpretation of multilateral obligations?

    Rick Lines, Damon Barrett
    17 December 2014
    Opinion

    These are interesting times for drug law reform, which, as it gathers pace, is asking important questions of international law. A UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs is set for 2016 just as national reforms are challenging international treaties that form the bedrock of a global prohibition regime that has dominated since the turn of the twentieth century. States parties to the three UN drug control conventions must now confront the legal and political dilemmas this creates. This is the situation in which the US now finds itself following cannabis reforms in various states that are at odds with these treaties.

  3. brookings-paper

    Marijuana legalization is an opportunity to modernize international drug treaties

    • Wells Bennett, John Walsh
    14 October 2014

    Two U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana, and more may follow; the Obama administration has conditionally accepted these experiments. Such actions are in obvious tension with three international treaties that together commit the United States to punish and even criminalize activity related to recreational marijuana. The administration asserts that its policy complies with the treaties because they leave room for flexibility and prosecutorial discretion.

  4. Into the breach: Drugs, control, and violating bad laws in good ways

    Rick Lines
    27 November 2014
    Opinion

    An October statement on drug control from the US State Department has prompted much comment and speculation at home and abroad. Delivered by Ambassador William Brownfield, the ‘Brownfield Doctrine’, as it has been named by some commentators, lays out a four pillar approach the United States will follow in matters of international drug control.

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

    16 October 2014
    Other news

    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.

  6. Going to pot: legalised cannabis edges nearer in west after US states end ban

    22 May 2014
    Other news

    Legalisation of cannabis is making slow but unstoppable progress across much of the developed world, many experts believe, following the end of prohibition in two US states. In Amsterdam, long famous for its coffee shops, international experts gathering to discuss cannabis regulation said the international conventions, once so heavily policed by the US, would now be increasingly flouted. Already many countries, most notably the Netherlands and Spain, have bypassed the rules.

  7. Thumbnail

    Geo-political and cultural constraints on international drug control treaties

    • Craig Reinarman
    01 April 2003

    publicationIt is a noble and worthy step to attempt to change the drug control treaties, but this is likely to take a long time and it may not be the essential starting place of reform. The amount of flexibility in the treaties is only partly a function of treaty language, for this language is always interpreted, and interpretations can vary depending upon how many states actively argue for more flexibility.

    application-pdfDownload the publication (PDF)

  8. Drug control body concerned by pot legalization in some U.S. states

    03 December 2014
    Other news

    The head of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) monitoring compliance with international drug control conventions expressed concern about the moves by U.S. states to legalize marijuana.

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

    Icaria Editorial
    27 July 2014
    Other news

    The war on drugs has been a losing fight for 40 years.

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

    13 November 2014
    Other news

    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.

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

    13 November 2014
    Other news

    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)

  12. U.S. states' pot legalization not in line with international law: U.N. agency

    12 November 2014
    Other news

    Moves by some U.S. states to legalize marijuana are not in line with international drugs conventions, the U.N. anti-narcotics chief said, adding he would discuss the issue in Washington next week. 

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

    13 October 2014
    Other news

    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.

  14. US signals shift in international drug policy

    12 October 2014
    Other news

    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.

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

    03 March 2015
    Other news

    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.

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

    Martin Jelsma
    27 June 2014
    Other news

    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.

  17. Fatal attraction: Brownfield's flexibility doctrine and global drug policy reform

    Martin Jelsma, David Bewley-Taylor, Damon Barrett
    18 November 2014
    Article

    State-level cannabis reforms, which gathered steam this month, have exposed the inability of the United States to abide by the terms of the legal bedrock of the global drug control system; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This is something that should force a much-needed conversation about reform to long- standing international agreements. But while ostensibly 'welcoming' the international drug policy reform debate, it is a conversation the US federal government actually wishes to avoid.

  18. idpc-latin-america

    The drug policy reform agenda in the Americas

    • Coletta Youngers
    30 April 2013

    Latin America has emerged at the vanguard of efforts to promote debate on drug policy reform. For decades, Latin American governments largely followed the drug control policies and programs of Washington’s so-called war on drugs. Yet two parallel trends have resulted in a dramatic change in course: the emergence of left-wing governments that have challenged Washington’s historic patterns of unilateralism and interventionism and growing frustration with the failure of the prohibitionist drug control model put forward by the US government.

  19. Bolivia wins a rightful victory on the coca leaf

    11 January 2013
    Press release

    Today the Plurinational State of Bolivia can celebrate a rightful victory, as the country can become formally a party again to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, but without being bound by its unjust and unrealistic requirement that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished.” This represents the successful conclusion of an arduous process in which Bolivia has sought to reconcile its international treaty obligations with its 2009 Constitution, which obliges upholding the coca leaf as part of Bolivia’s cultural patrimony.

  20. The International Drug Control Treaties

    • Heather J. Haase, Nicolas Edward Eyle, Sebastian Scholl , Joshua Raymond Schrimpf
    31 July 2012
    Paper

    The way the world looks at drug control is changing. There has been a growing awareness of the issue for the past decade, as well as increasing public outcry over what many see as a failure of the once popular "war on drugs." Nowhere is this battle more pronounced than in the so-called "marijuana wars," which are slowly growing into an old-fashioned standoff between the states and the federal government.

     

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