SARA BRITTANY SOMERSET   March 12, 2018

The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) recently issued its 2017 annual report, and the takeaway with regard to cannabis is clear: The INCB is deeply concerned with the spread of adult-use legalization.

Countries pursuing legalization are acting in 'clear violation' of the UN's 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, says the International Narcotics Control Board.

The report contains stern warnings, accusing countries like Uruguay of acting in “clear violation” of global drug control accords.

The Board, which monitors compliance with international drug control treaties, is made up of individuals, not U.N. member states. That’s meant to protect it from political pressure. The Board’s charter also stipulates, however, that it must include individuals with “medical, pharmacological or pharmaceutical experience.” That means Big Pharma is well represented, while advocates for cannabis legalization—whether medical or adult-use—have no seat at the table.

International drug control treaties, signed by most member states decades ago, are meant to prohibit the proliferation and non-medical use of dangerous drugs. Cannabis is specifically covered under most of the treaties.

However, in recent years countries like Uruguay have legalized and regulated the non-medical use of cannabis. Canada is planning to legalize later this year. In the United States, nine states and the District of Columbia have implemented some form of adult-use legalization.

That does not sit well with the INCB. “Governments and jurisdictions in North America have continued to pursue policies with respect to the legalization of the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes, in violation of the 1961 Convention as amended,” states the Board’s 2017 report.

Warnings to Uruguay, Jamaica

The Board strongly cautioned Uruguay, which legalized cannabis nationally in 2013, and currently sells cannabis in pharmacies, that the nation is “acting in clear violation” of the drug treaties.

“The limitation of the use of controlled substances to medicinal and scientific purposes is a fundamental principle to which no derogation is permitted under the 1961 Convention as amended,” the INCB report says.

The U.N. board members also criticized Jamaica for legalizing cannabis for religious use three years ago. Cannabis is considered a religious sacrament among adherents of the Rastafarian religion. Rastafarians take their spiritual name from Ras Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, (Emperor Haile Selassie I, of Ethiopia). Selassie is considered a direct descendent of King Solomon.

While the U.N. claims to promote global religious tolerance, the INCB strongly disagrees with the religious nature of the rasta cannabis ceremony.

“The Board reminds the Government of Jamaica, and all other parties, that under article 4, paragraph (c), of the 1961 Convention as amended, only the medical and scientific use of cannabis is authorized, and that use for any other purposes, including religious, is not permitted,” the report states. 

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