Photo by Kimzy Nanney on Unsplash

International rights form the foundation for modern nation-states. Insofar as states are considered civilized, they adhere to human rights more, not less. Decriminalization continues to make marks on the international stage.

Since 2001, cannabis has been legal for medicinal use by Canadians. Also, since October 17, 2018, cannabis has been legal in Canada, which remains a lucky thing for Canadian citizens. For many others in different countries, they have been unlucky in this regard.


We, in Canada, live in one of the few places with medical and recreational legal use of cannabis. To me, this makes Canadian society a more civilized democratic country because this seems to respect an unspoken ‘human right’ without explicit statement as a human right.So, the right is to psychological autonomy — not simply intellectually. As in, we have the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of belief. We can practice religion as we wish. Also, we can believe, as we wish.

Yet, “psychological autonomy” seems more nuanced. The others seem obvious as intellectual forms of freedom of mind. It means the right and privilege to consume psychoactive substances as one sees fit.
A model of free, prior and informed consent about the substance, so knowing the consequences of the free psychological acts, too.

An Outlier

Only Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay, 18 states, and a small handful of other places have legalized recreational use of cannabis. The United Nations recognizes 193 Member States in its General Assembly.

Subsequently, Canada is one of the few outliers with both medicinal legalization and recreational legalization of cannabis. In most other nations of the world, cannabis is at least partially illegal.

The three governing treaties for its international legal status are 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. Perhaps, it’s time for an updated one.

International Classifications

Essentially, this international system lists cannabis as a Schedule I substance or ‘drug’ and a Schedule IV, in fact. Meaning cannabis is in the same classification as “cocaine, heroin, methadone, morphine, opium,” according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

Let that sink in, for cannabis users, many of the readers here, potentially. You’re classified along those lines, which seems, at a minimum, unfair if not against subjective experience and the scientific evidence. Canada, in this sense, seems more evidence-based in its policies regarding cannabis with decriminalization than most of the other countries of the world.

This classification of schedules — Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, and Schedule IV — for substances is highly outdated. It came from the annex to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Legalization, A Love Story

Many health authorities in Canada, in other countries, and leaders, including former and current secretary generals, have made calls for decriminalization.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. made calls several years ago for removal from Schedule IV classification, which, at a minimum, is a light move while reasonable.

Canada, in its evidence-based policy of decriminalization/legalization of cannabis as a whole since 2018, and as an outlier on the international scene, is a love story about a society self-civilizing through democratic efforts.