John Walsh, Martin Jelsma, Tom Blickman, David Bewley-Taylor
19 March 2019
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD or Expert Committee) released in January 2019 the outcomes of the first-ever critical review of cannabis, recommending a series of changes in the current scheduling of cannabis-related substances under the UN drug control conventions.
John Walsh, Ann Fordham, Martin Jelsma, Hannah Hetzer
22 September 2018
The "Global Call to Action" document that the U.S. government is circulating—and heavily pressuring reluctant countries to sign—is explicitly “not open for negotiation.” Far from an effort at achieving mutual understanding and genuine consensus, it is an instance of heavy-handed U.S. “with us or against us” diplomacy.
The international dimensions of Bill C-45 are of utmost importance not only for Canada itself but for many countries around the world that are moving in the direction of legally regulating the cannabis market
David Bewley-Taylor, Tom Blickman, Martin Jelsma, John Walsh
03 April 2018
Ever since the introduction of Bill C-45, questions have been swirling concerning Canada’s position relative to the UN drug control conventions: conventions to which Canada is a party and that, crucially, prohibit the creation of regulated markets for the recreational use of cannabis.
Martin Jelsma, Neil Boister, David Bewley-Taylor, Malgosia Fitzmaurice, John Walsh
15 March 2018
Legal tensions are growing within the international drug control regime as increasing numbers of member states move towards or seriously consider legal regulation of the cannabis market for non-medical purposes. Amongst reform options not requiring consensus, inter se modification appears to be the most ‘elegant’ approach and one that provides a useful safety valve for collective action to adjust a treaty regime arguably frozen in time.
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.
Now that the voters in Colorado and Washington have approved marijuana legalization initiatives, attention has turned quickly to questions surrounding implementation—and in particular to speculation over how the federal government might react. This is entirely understandable, since it is no secret that the newly approved state initiatives conflict with federal law.
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.
The global debate on drug policy is getting more interesting, due in no small part to initiatives from Latin America. The Uruguayan government’s June 20 announcement that it will propose legislation to create a legal, regulated market for marijuana is just the latest development to challenge business as usual in the “war on drugs.” The question of alternatives to the drug war took center stage at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia in April, which culminated in an announcement by President Santos tasking the Organization of American States (OAS) with evaluating present policies and laying out other possible options.
Some have hailed the Obama administration’s 2012 National Drug Control Strategy as a revolutionary shift toward a public health approach to the nation’s drug problems. Others have panned it as nothing new. There are actually advances to applaud in the new strategy and budget, in terms of both rhetoric and substance. Those positive steps should be acknowledged. But the extent to which the 2012 strategy represents a break from the past should not overstated.
The California ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana under state law was defeated at the polls Tuesday, garnering about 46 percent of the vote. Over the course of the campaign, the measure achieved notoriety in Latin America , and provoked anxiety on the part of the Colombian and Mexican governments in particular. WOLA has long promoted more effective and humane drug policies in the Americas, and in recent years we have seen the debate begin to open, not least in response to Prop 19. So what does Prop 19's defeat foretell for the debate over alternatives to marijuana prohibition?
Registered voters in California will be the ones voting next Tuesday on whether to legalize marijuana under state law. But the ballot initiative in question – Proposition 19 – has sparked debate far beyond the state’s borders. The fate of Prop 19 is being watched especially closely in Latin America, and for good reason. Proximity to the United States – still the world’s major market for illicit drugs – has helped to stimulate robust illicit drug production and distribution networks in the region. And U.S.-backed militarized enforcement to suppress the drug industry, combined with harsh laws to punish drug users, have made the “war on drugs” more than metaphorical in many Latin American countries.
“Democracy is the worst form of government,” as Churchill once put it, “except all those other forms that have been tried.” Whatever else it should include, it’s hard to imagine democracy without regular, free and fair elections that express the majority’s preferences.
Development First demonstrates why it is no coincidence that policies that worsen poverty and undermine governance cannot achieve their drug control aims. This report identifies ten lessons learned for promoting alternative livelihoods, based on decades of evidence in countries from Thailand and Burma to Afghanistan and the Andes.
The growing realization that we and our neighbors in the Americas are not well-served by the status quo U.S. policies presents the opportunity to re-examine old premises and modernize our goals and strategies. Better to make real progress in reducing drug-related harms than to persist with policies that have failed to meet their own basic goals even as they have generated immense collateral damage.
The trend of "drug decriminalization" is quickly taking shape in Latin America. Increasingly, many countries are leaning toward decriminalization as an alternative approach, hoping that it will be effective both in reducing consumption and dealing with associated health problems.