Wednesday, July 18, 2012

International treaties vs. marijuana legalization has a very thoughtful article by three members of the New York City Bar Association's Drugs and the Law Committee on the way international treaties impact efforts to legalize marijuana in the U.S.

The U.S. has signed the Single Convention on Narcotics (1961) and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides that federal law and treaties are the "supreme Law of the Land." The various states are governed by these treaties, and thus limit the ability of any state to legalize marijuana. This is certain to become an issue in the summer and fall of 2012 as the voters of Washington State, Colorado and Oregon consider initiatives to legalize marijuana. If one or more of these pass, these international treaties will be a factor in how the federal government responds.

The authors -- Heather J. Haase, Esq., Nicolas Eyle, and Joshua Schrimpf, Esq. -- note that the international consensus behind these treaties is being shaken.

A major change in the traditional protocol of the treaties -- don't rock the boat -- is coming from Bolivia. When Bolivia (and Peru) acceded to the Single Convention (what we in the U.S. call ratifying the treaty), they agreed to ban their long-time practices of coca chewing and drinking coca tea after 25 years (Article 49.2(e), Single Convention of Narcotics). Since 1987, they have not been in compliance.

A couple of years ago, Bolivia rewrote its constitution and decided to try to change the requirement that it disapprove of coca use. (Bolivia's President, Evo Morales, came to political prominence as the leader of the union of coca growers!).

Bolivia tried to get the U.N.'s Commission on Narcotics Drugs to change the prohibition on coca use, unsuccessfully.

Now Bolivia is using different approach which is to "withdraw" from the treaty (called "denunciation," Article 46, Single Convention on Narcotics) and then joining the treaty again ("accession," Article 40) but with reservations (Article 50.3). The reservation can be rejected if it is objected to by one-third of the countries that are party to the Single Convention within twelve months after a country notified the U.N. Secretary General it wants a reservation. That means that one-third of the 183 nations ("parties") have to object.

This type of strategy is outlined in chapter 6 in the excellent book by Robin Room, Benedict Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton and Peter Reuter, Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate, (Oxford U. Press, 2010).

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Anonymous said...

Medical Marijuana Patients Get Their Day in Federal Court with the Obama Administration
July 30th, 2012

D.C. Circuit to hear oral arguments this October in lawsuit challenging marijuana's federal classification

The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed to hear oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, a lawsuit challenging the federal government's classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no medical value. The D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments on October 16th at 9:30am.

If the rescheduling lawsuit is successful and marijuana is reclassified, federal defendants will then gain the basis for a medical necessity defense.

See also:

mario lap said...

Dear Eric l.s,

What unfortunately is missing in this piece as it isin moving beyong stalemate, is in my view the best option, treaty wise, interpretation.

To fully understand my views you have to read the articles 23 and 28 of th single convention but what it comes down to is that you need a national cannabis agency. as we do have here already for medicinal marijuana in the netherlands..

kind regards