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UN Drug Agencies Fret Over Uruguay Marijuana Vote


un drug agencies uruguay marijuanaBy Phillip Smith

Wednesday night’s vote in the Uruguayan chamber of deputies to approve a state-run marijuana commerce would make the South American nation the first to create legal pot markets, and that’s making United Nations anti-drug bureaucracies nervous. Both the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued statements Thursday fretting about the vote.

Uruguay hasn’t legalized the marijuana market yet—that will require a vote in the Uruguayan Senate this fall—but the Vienna-based UN organs aren’t waiting. Charged with enforcing the global drug prohibition regime, and its legal backbone, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and successor treaties, the INCB and UNODC are raising the alarm about the apparent looming breach of the treaty.

“The INCB has noted with concern a draft law under consideration in Uruguay which, if adopted, would permit the sale of cannabis herb for non-medical use,” INCB head Dr. Raymond Yans said in a statement. “Such a law would be in complete contravention to the provisions of the international drug control treaties, in particular the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, to which Uruguay is a party.”

The INCB said it had always “aimed at maintaining a dialogue with the government of Uruguay” and complained that Montevideo wasn’t paying attention to it. “The Board regrets that the government of Uruguay refused to receive an INCB mission before the draft law was submitted to parliament,” Yans said.

The statement further urged Uruguayan leaders “to ensure that the country remains fully compliant with international law which limits the use of narcotic drugs, including cannabis, exclusively to medical and scientific purposes” and warned that legalization ” might have serious consequences for the health and welfare of the population and for the prevention of cannabis abuse among the youth.”

The UNODC, for its part, said in its statement that it supported the INCB statement and was continuing “to follow developments in Uruguay closely.”

But, perhaps signaling a belated recognition that the global drug prohibition regime is increasingly tattered, the UNODC acknowledged that the results of enforcing drug prohibition, including “horrorific violence” related to black market drug trafficking have “led to a debate over best to address such problems.”

UNODC said it “welcomes this discussion,” but that “this dialogue should be conducted on the basis of the agreed conventions, in line with international law. It invited nations to talk about it all at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting next year.

In the meantime, Uruguay isn’t waiting, and there is little the UN anti-drug agencies can do about except shout from their bully pulpits.

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Johnny Green


  1. What’s even more amazing is that the majority of people in Uruguay don’t want legalization. I’m guessing they have a lot of stoner’s against legalization there too. Probably a lot of non taxable income is on the table.

  2. the-latchkeykid on

    I’m sure as a visitor to Uruguay there won’t be an issue of attaining some herbs. Definitely good for tourism and the local economy.

  3. GravityChanges on

    The law doesn’t apply to tourists.. you have to be a national and register, have the government record each transaction up to 40g per month- as the bill is currently written. BUT I agree Uruguay is a sovereign nation and their Pres was a leader of their “founding fathers,” he was a freedom fighter and he has the cojones to stand up to oppressive forces. I expect Colorado and Washington to be forced to fight a harder battle over this than Uruguay, but this will be a big deal in the coming year.

  4. The UN had become an expensive joke with virtually zero power or influence anywhere in the world, but the fact they they are now attempting to invoke a drug policy on a country that has made a conscious decision about an issue totally is absurd.

  5. Uruguay is a nation of heretics! How dare they choose to defy unenforceable rules created in the middle of the last century by a bunch of ill-informed, self-righteous politicians! The financial security of thousands of cartel members is at stake!

  6. firetheliberals on

    F $ ck the UN. URUGUAY is a sovereign country. This a the uruguayans are the smartest guys on the planet. What a great way to attract more tourists

  7. I’d love to be a fly on the wall behind the scenes. Watching all the big corporation’s lobbyist put pressure on the congressmen they bought, who would then put pressure on the U.N. who would then continue to put pressure on Uruguay. I take my hat off to a nation that has the guts to do what makes sense for it’s people.

  8. ” the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and successor treaties”

    1961,, that says it in a nut shell. That was 52 years ago. Now, we all know that attitudes were very archaic back then. Even blood letting to cure a fever was an acceptable medical procedure.
    The vast medical community’s have documented and re-documented, tested and re-tested the benefits of Medical Cannabis since then.
    The U N can’t save the people in countries were atrocity’s against their own population are rampant with death tolls raising daily. Yet they stand by and do nothing. So they choose to gather their resource’s against a plant. Will we see Blue Helmet soldiers patrolling the streets in Uruguay. Like the DEA will soon be doing here in the US of A. IMHO

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