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Major Groups Call For UN To Respect Countries That Legalize Marijuana Or Other Drugs


united nations drug reformAs the United Nations prepares for the first comprehensive review of global responses to drug problems in nearly two decades, a broad coalition of more than 100 organizations is pushing for the international body to respect countries that move away from prohibition.

“Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations,” the groups write in a new letter being released today.

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights are among the signatories. Also notable are a number of organizations devoted to health policy and AIDS services.

The letter’s release is timed to a United Nations “High-Level Thematic Debate on the World Drug Problem” taking place in New York on Thursday, May 7, in preparation for a UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) scheduled for April 2016. Advocates believe that countries should take the UNGASS as an opportunity to pursue a range of reforms to global drug policy, including revising provisions of the UN Drug Conventions that threaten to stand in the way of reform. The Obama administration has taken the stance that countries should be free to pursue different kinds of systems under the treaties — including legalization — but has also opposed treaty reform, a stance which advocates have questioned.

“The administration’s call to respect countries’ right to try regulation rather than prohibition is a positive step for drug policy, as are other reforms the US has sought internationally,” said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who coordinated the sign-on letter. “But it doesn’t make sense to oppose having a discussion within the UN about modernizing the treaties to reflect that.”

The coalition has called for the UN to appoint a “Committee of Experts” to study treaty reform, a common UN procedure for addressing issues of interest.

To date, four US states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis, as has the nation of Uruguay. Many other countries have decriminalized possession of certain drugs or have implemented harm reduction measures like syringe exchange programs. While the UN’s drug enforcement body has warned that some of these policies may violate the treaties, the push for reform doesn’t appear to be slowing anytime soon.

The new letter calls for revising the treaties, and says that in the meanwhile “in case of irreconcilable conflict, human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations charter, should take priority over provisions of the drug conventions.”  Human rights concerns may require shifting to drug control systems that aren’t based on prohibition, the statement suggests. “Accommodating…experiments...with legalization and regulation of internationally controlled substances may require that the UN drug conventions are interpreted in light of countries’ international human rights and other obligations.”

Although marijuana legalization is a major factor driving the international drug debate, another is the impact the illicit drug trade has in Latin America, where violence and related criminal problems associated with the trade exceed that suffered in other regions.

John Walsh, senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), said, “Some Latin American leaders are now openly questioning the global drug prohibition regime, because of the destruction caused by criminal organizations fueled by enormous drug trade profits. Meanwhile, the US is undergoing important shifts in its own domestic policy, with the Obama administration wisely accommodating states that are legalizing and regulating cannabis. This expands the political space for other countries as well.” Walsh is the coauthor of “Marijuana Legalization is an Opportunity to Modernize International Drug Treaties,” co-published by WOLA and The Brookings Institution.

Advocates also warn that flexibility, as called for by the State Department, shouldn’t be used to justify human rights violations in any country, such as the death penalty for nonviolent offenses or the banning of life-saving public health interventions like syringe exchange or opioid substitution therapy. “Prohibition has been a public health and human rights disaster,” said Charles King, CEO of the US’s largest community-based AIDS service organization, Housing Works. “That’s why citizens around the world are calling for — and in some cases enacting — forward-thinking reforms that move away from criminalization and toward regulation and control. US and UN agencies should stop trying to cut off the treaty reform discussion and encourage a truly open debate instead.”

The full text of the letter and list of signatories are online at http://StoptheDrugWar.org/un.

StoptheDrugWar.org works for an end to drug prohibition worldwide, and an end to the “drug war” in its current form. We believe that much of the harm commonly attributed to “drugs” is really the result of placing drugs in a criminal environment. We believe the global drug war has fueled violence, civil instability and public health crises; and that the currently prevalent arrest- and punishment-based policies toward drugs are unjust.


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Johnny Green


  1. UN is neutral on the marijuana issue do to the money involve with medical companies. The potential benefits certain strains of mj. Such as durbain poison (african origin) also known as kush. Out weigh any monetary gains from big medical companies. ocjed@yahoo.com. anonymous mikko

  2. MrBudWyzer on

    You can thank Anslinger for instituting the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics…

  3. ted mishler on

    A great assemblage of some of the benefits of the nifty plant!
    Thanks for the info

  4. Lawrence Goodwin on

    I hope these groups’ demands are seriously considered first and then promptly adopted. But it’s tough not to be skeptical. The U.S. government violated nearly every treaty of more than 300 signed with Native Americans. The U.S. government has routinely ignored that same United Nations by conducting unilateral military actions worldwide, including more recently the widely condemned drone strikes. The U.S. government regularly vetoes any attempt in the UN to punish Israel for similar military actions in its own little region. But when federal and state officials in the U.S. have the gall to claim we can’t change laws pertaining to cannabis plants because of the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics, we’re supposed to just accept it as policy? This cannabis prohibition is fraudulent and the UN should act accordingly by total repeal.

  5. Over 100 clinical studies of cannabis curing virtually every illness known to man in the National Institute of Health/US Medical Library Data base.. (same as above) They say the scientific evidence isn’t there… Anyone want to argue this, click on author information on any link..
    Cannabis kills Tumor cells: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1576089 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20090845 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/616322 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14640910 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19480992 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15275820 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15638794 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16818650 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17952650 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20307616 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16616335 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16624285 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10700234 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17675107 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14617682 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17342320 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16893424 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15026328
    Cannabis Cures Colorectal Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22231745 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17583570
    Cannabis Cures Uterine, Testicular, and Pancreatic Cancers: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page4 Cannabis-derived substances in cancer therapy and anti-tumour properties: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20925645
    Cannabis Cures Brain Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11479216
    Cannabis Cures Mouth and Throat Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20516734
    Cannabis Cures Breast Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20859676 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18025276 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21915267 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22776349 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18454173 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16728591 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9653194
    Cannabis Cures Lung Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25069049 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22198381?dopt=Abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21097714?dopt=Abstract
    Cannabis Cures Prostate Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12746841?dopt=Abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3339795/?tool=pubmed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22594963 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15753356 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10570948 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19690545
    Cannabis Cures Blood Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12091357 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16908594
    Cannabis Cures Skin Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12511587 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19608284
    Cannabis Cures Liver Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21475304
    Cannabis Cures Cancer in General: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12514108 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15313899 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20053780 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18199524 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19589225 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12182964 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19442435 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12723496 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16250836 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17237277
    Cannabinoids in intestinal inflammation and cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19442536?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=22
    Cannabis use and cancer of the head and neck: Case-control study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277494
    Cannabis THC at high doses in area, inhibits cholangiocarcinoma cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19916793?itool=Email.EmailReport.Pubmed_ReportSelector.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=6 Targeting CB2 cannabinoid receptors as a novel therapy to treat malignant lymphoblastic disease http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21115947
    Marijuana kills cancer cells: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17952650 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16835997 http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page4
    Cannabis Treatment in Leukemia: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15978942 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16754784 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15454482 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16139274 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14692532
    Cannabinoids and the immune system: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11854771 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12052046
    Cannabis partially/fully induced cell death in Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12130702 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19457575 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18615640 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17931597 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18438336 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19916793 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18387516 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15453094 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19229996 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9771884 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18339876 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12133838 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16596790 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11269508 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15958274 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19425170 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17202146 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11903061 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15451022 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20336665 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19394652 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11106791 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19189659 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16500647 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19539619 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19059457 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16909207 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18088200 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10913156 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18354058 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19189054 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17934890 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16571653 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19889794 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15361550
    Cannabis treatment of translocation-positive rhabdomyosarcoma: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19509271
    Cannabis Induces apoptosis of uterine cervix cancer cells: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15047233
    Cannabis treatment in lymphoma: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18546271 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16936228 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16337199 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19609004
    Cannabis kills cancer cells: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16818634 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12648025 Cannabis regulator of Neural Cell Development http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16787257
    Cannabis treatment of Melanoma: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17065222
    Cannabis treatment for Thyroid Carcinoma http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18197164
    Cannabis treatment in Colon Cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18938775 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19047095 Cannabinoids in intestinal inflammation and cancer. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19442536
    Cannabinoids in health and disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18286801 Cannabis a neuroprotective after brain injury http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11586361
    Cannabis inhibits Cancer Cell Invasion: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19914218

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