International Narcotics Control Board expresses deep concern about the legalization of cannabis for non-medical use in Canada

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VIENNA, 21 June (UN Information Service) – The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) notes with great concern the adoption by the Parliament of Canada of legislation aimed at legalizing and regulating the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes.

Through their ratification of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, State Parties have undertaken to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs. In its ongoing dialogue with the Government of Canada and in its public pronouncements on the issue, the Board has reiterated that the legalization and regulation of cannabis by Canada for non-medical purposes cannot be reconciled with the country’s international obligations as a State Party to the drug control conventions.

 

The UN drug control conventions are the result of a broad-based international consensus evidenced by the fact that they benefit from near universal ratification by States. As recently as 2016, the international community, including Canada, reaffirmed the centrality of the three international drug control conventions as “the cornerstone of the international drug control system” in the outcome document of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS).

The Board cautions that the legalization of the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes, which is in violation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, also undermines the international legal drug control framework and respect for the rules-based international order.

Speaking on behalf of the Board, President Viroj Sumyai said: “This decision contravenes the Conventions and their overarching objectives of safeguarding the health and welfare of people. INCB is very concerned about the public health situation in Canada which will result from the Government’s decision to legalize the non-medical use of cannabis. We also call upon the Government of Canada to consider the repercussions of its policy on other Member States, in accordance with its long-standing commitment to the principle of common and shared responsibility.”

The Board will continue to monitor developments and remain engaged with the Government of Canada on this serious issue.

The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is an independent body, established by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, mandated to monitor and support governments’ compliance with the three international drug control treaties. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council to serve in their individual capacities for a term of five years.

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