Cannabis is the most widely produced and consumed illicit substance globally. A significant number of states have long engaged in soft defection from the UN drug control regime in relation to tolerant policies on the personal possession, cultivation and use of cannabis. Recently, there has been growing debate within political circles on the benefits of regulated cannabis markets. This has been driven by a number of factors, including the continuing illegality of supply, the associated and often violent involvement of criminal elements and the use of finite criminal justice resources. In this section you will find an overview of our most recent blogs on the issue.
Cannabis social clubs (CSC) are noncommercial organisations of users who get together to cultivate and distribute enough cannabis to meet their personal needs without having to turn to the black market. They are based on the fact that the consumption of illegal drugs has never been considered a crime under Spanish legislation. Taking advantage of this grey area, private clubs that produce cannabis for non-profit distribution solely to a closed group of adult members have existed for years.
The year 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the bedrock of the current UN drug control system. TNI will host a side event at the 54th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Several speakers will critically examine the significance and shortcomings of the Convention, explain how plants and traditional use are treated under its provisions, and discuss the current state of affairs of Bolivia's amendment proposal on coca chewing.
The 53rd Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was a rather uneventful event. After the High Level Segment in 2009, the final agreement on the new Political Declaration and the unprecedented addition of an Interpretative Statement on harm reduction, this year’s CND would be a generally low-key affair. One of the most controversial issues were the comments of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) on the trend to decriminalize possession for personal use in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Both Argentina and Mexico voiced strong objections. This CND also was marked by the imminent departure of Mr. Costa as Executive Director of the nited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which monitors implementation of the global drug treaties, has trained its fire on Bolivia, this time accusing the country of threatening the integrity of the entire international drug control regime by defending traditional uses of the coca leaf.
Two years ago, California’s bid to legalize marijuana—Proposition 19—achieved great notoriety in Latin America, but ultimately fell short at the ballot box. Next Tuesday, voters in the state of Washington appear ready to do what Prop 19’s supporters could not quite achieve—an Election Day victory.
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.
It is time that policymakers, law enforcement, professionals and other parties involved combine their efforts to work towards the implementation of a transparent cannabis chain that is organised in a responsible and professional manner.
The last few years have witnessed a boom in new cannabis user associations in Spain. Although there are no reliable figures for them, most are known to have been created for the collective cultivation of marihuana crops, and are now several hundred-strong. They are mainly found in Catalonia, which is also home to the largest of them: some have existed for only a short time but already have several thousand members.
Health officials of the Basque Country, an autonomous region of Spain, announced that they will introduce a bill to regulate the "cultivation, sale and consumption" of hashish and marijuana. The bill, which will be presented to the regional parliament next year, was put forward on December 12, 2011, by regional health officials during the presentation of the regional addictions plan. Several media outlets broke the news as an intent to legalise cannabis use, while in fact the proposed legislation only aims to regulate cannabis user associations that cultivate for personal use.
In December 2013 we had undoubtedly the biggest news of the last few decades concerning drug policy: Uruguay became the first country in the world to adopt a law regulating the production, sale and consumption of cannabis throughout the national territory. Amidst heated debate, the project was approved on July 31, 2013 by the Chamber of Deputies, and on December 10, 2013 by the Senate. A few days later President José Mujica formally enacted the law that will regulate the cannabis market.
On 19 June, 2012, the Ganjazz Art Club in Donostia, one of the oldest Cannabis Social Clubs in Spain, received a visit that was unimaginable a few years earlier: a group of members of the autonomous regional Basque parliament on official business. Its goal was to find out how one of these cannabis users’ associations, that have proliferated over the past few years, operates.
The 2009 Commission on Narcotic Drugs and its High Level Segment (HLS) marked the end of the 2-year process of the 10-year review of the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. The event was marked by the call of the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, to remove the coca leaf from the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which represented the first ever truly open challenge by any nation state to the structure of the international drug control system. The HLS adopted a new Political Declaration and Plan of Action. A dissenting Interpretative Statement by 26 countries on harm reduction, not mentioned in the Political Declaration, marked a clear divide in drug control approaches.
NGOs in the drug policy field have criticised the outcome of the recent elections to the United Nation’s International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) because the process of trading votes between member states has led to the exclusion of some of the most highly qualified candidates, and the re-election of at least one candidate who does not fit the stated criteria, Tatyana Dmitrieva.
Martin Barriuso, the president of of Pannagh and the Federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC) in Spain and two fellow activists from the Pannagh cannabis social club have been released. They had been erroneously arrested for drug trafficking in Bilbao on Monday, November 14. Cannabis social clubs are registered, non-profit associations that are formed by adult people who consume cannabis.
In the past few weeks, the attention of the international drug policy community has been focused on the cannabis regulation bill in Uruguay. The great significance of this momentum for the drug policy reform has been supported by various civil society organisations and public opinion leaders from all around the world. This contrasts with the steps back undertaken in Spain, where a new bill – the paradoxically so-called citizen security law – was approved last 29th November by the Council of Ministers.
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, without being bound by its unjust and unrealistic requirement that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished.”
The exponential proliferation of the number of associations, clubs and other groups that distribute cannabis among their members and create new spaces for socialising, has surprised even the most optimistic advocates of more reasonable drug policies. In a short time, and in spite of those in government, civil society has provided a response to a problem that realpolitik has been unable to tackle.