UN Report Accuses US and Canada of Breaking International Cannabis Treaties

The United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board's (INCB) latest annual report calls out US and Canadian medical marijuana laws for being "contrary to the international drug control treaties."

Over the past year, various United Nations-led organizations have released a number of documents showing their changing attitudes toward international marijuana policy. The most prominent of which came last month when the World Health Organization called for a global reduction in severity of cannabis laws. However, the INCB—which acts as "the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions"—doesn't seem to be on board with those recommendations.

The INCB's annual report (which was published earlier this week) included accusations that countries like Canada and the US were skirting international drug laws in developing their own recreational cannabis markets.

"The legalization of the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes in some countries represents a challenge to the universal implementation of the treaties, a challenge to public health and well-being, particularly among young people, and a challenge to the parties to the treaties," wrote INCB president Dr. Viroj Sumyai in the report.

Sumyai maintains that UN treaties only allow for medical and scientific use of cannabis. Despite this Sumyai also said that even the medical marijuana programs in Canada and the US are "poorly regulated" and don't meet UN standards.

"Most medical cannabis programmes in the United States do not comply with the requirements of the international drug control treaties or United States national law," the INCB report reads. "The cannabis sold in dispensaries may be illicitly produced and sold. There may be substantial diversion of cannabis products intended for medical use to nonmedical use. There is often little or no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of many of the purported medical uses of cannabis and there is very little medical supervision of these 'medical' uses of cannabis."

This statement comes after several other UN bodies have already issued recommendations that UN laws need to be reformed to be more in line with the ones found in states and countries where cannabis has been legalized. They've argued that ending the UN-sponsored War on Drugs and encouraging countries to embrace marijuana research is likely to be a more effective means of moving forward than prosecuting US states with medical marijuana programs.

While the INCB does not have the power to enforce the broken treaties on its own, the report's anti-cannabis sentiments could encourage UN member states to pressure the US and Canada to adopt stricter cannabis regulations. However, the report's incongruity with public opinion in countries moving toward marijuana reform, and its inconsistency with other recent UN publications on cannabis, could also make member states dismiss the INCB's cannabis stance as outdated and in desperate need of reform.

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