In commentary published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, experts said Canada’s legalization plan will conflict with the country’s international treaties.
Canada is obligated by law to follow three UN treaties that control or prohibit cannabis access: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
The CMAJ authors wrote that though Canadians might not be concerned about international laws regarding cannabis, they might care about similar treaties on genocide, nuclear weapons or human rights.
“Canada cannot pick and choose which international laws to follow without encouraging other countries to do the same,” the authors wrote.
The federal government’s lead on legalization, Bill Blair, said the country is mindful of its international commitments and any changes will continue to fulfill obligations to the international community.
“At the same time, we’ve made it very clear that the government of Canada has the right — even within those conventions — to ensure the health of our citizens, the safety of our kids, and an effective way to deal with organized crime,” Blair said.
“We’re looking at replacing the criminal sanctions with a very strict regulatory regime. We intend to control the production, distribution and the consumption of marijuana, to keep it away from kids and from organized crime — which, in my opinion, will not put us in violation of the conventions.”
According to the authors, Canada should attempt to seek exemptions from the substance control treaties, renegotiating in light of the country’s plans to legalize.
“If these diplomatic efforts fail, Canada must formally withdraw from these treaties to avoid undermining international law and compromising its global position,” the article read.
Last month, at a UN General Assembly in New York, the Liberal government announced a timeline of 2017 for cannabis legalization.