A United Nations drug enforcement body is warning international leaders to keep marijuana illegal.
Countries are supposed to prohibit non-medical use of cannabis under international drug control treaties that most nations signed onto decades ago, but a growing number of U.S. states as well as countries like Canada are moving to enact legalization anyway.
“Governments and jurisdictions in North America have continued to pursue policies with respect to the legalization of the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes, in violation of the 1961 Convention as amended,” the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) wrote in its annual report published last week.
Specifically, INCB said that a proposed marijuana legalization law that is moving through Canada’s Parliament is in “contravention” of the international agreements.
“The Board notes with concern that in Canada, draft legislation intended to authorize and regulate the nonmedical consumption of cannabis was introduced in the House of Commons in April 2017,” the report says. “As the Board has stated repeatedly, if passed into law, provisions of Bill C-45, which permit non-medical and non-scientific use of cannabis would be incompatible with the obligations assumed by Canada under the 1961 Convention as amended.”
The UN body also criticized state cannabis legalization policies in the U.S.
“The situation pertaining to cannabis cultivation and trafficking in North America continues to be in flux owing to the widening scope of personal non-medical use schemes in force in certain constituent states of the United States,” it said. “The decriminalization of cannabis has apparently led organized criminal groups to focus on manufacturing and trafficking other illegal drugs, such as heroin.”
The board warned Uruguay, which enacted a national marijuana legalization law in 2013 that it is in “clear violation” of the drug treaties. “The limitation of the use of controlled substances to medicinal and scientific purposes is a fundamental principle to which no derogation is permitted under the 1961 Convention as amended,” INCB wrote in the new report.
The body also raised concerns about pending proposals in the Netherlands that would legalize and regulate marijuana cultivation, saying that would be “inconsistent” with treaties to which the country is a party.
Jamaica gets called out, too, for its 2015 law allowing marijuana for religious use. “The Board reminds the Government of Jamaica and all other parties that under article 4, paragraph (c), of the 1961 Convention as amended only the medical and scientific use of cannabis is authorized and that use for any other purposes, including religious, is not permitted,” the report says.
While INCB notes throughout the report that medical cannabis is allowed under the international conventions, countries are expected to enact strict controls to “ensure that cannabis is prescribed by competent medical practitioners according to sound medical practice and based on sound scientific evidence.”
And personal cultivation of medical marijuana by patients is not permitted, the board argues.
“Those articles require States providing for the use of cannabis for medical purposes to establish a national cannabis agency to control, supervise and license its cultivation. Such agencies must designate the areas in which the cultivation of cannabis is permitted; ensure the licensing of producers; purchase and take physical possession of stocks; and maintain a monopoly on wholesale trading and maintaining stocks,” the report reads. “States must take measures to prohibit the unauthorized cultivation of cannabis plants, to seize and destroy illicit crops, and to prevent the misuse of and trafficking in cannabis. Similarly, the Board wishes to draw the attention of all Governments to its previously stated position that personal cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes is inconsistent with the 1961 Convention as amended because, inter alia, it heightens the risk of diversion.”
While INCB ostensibly has enforcement authority over the provisions of the international drug control treaties, its actions usually don’t amount to more than the issuing of sternly worded reports, so it is unlikely that this year’s version will do more to stop the international movement toward marijuana legalization than similar past missives have.
GOP & Dems Team Up To Shield State Marijuana Laws From Jeff Sessions
The Justice Department should be blocked from enforcing federal marijuana prohibition in states that have enacted legalization, a bipartisan group of 59 lawmakers wrote in a new letter.
“We are concerned about the Department of Justice enforcing federal marijuana law in a way that blocks implementation of marijuana reform laws in those states that have passed such reforms,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), wrote to top decisionmakers on the House Appropriations Committee on Friday. “The issue at hand is whether the federal government’s marijuana policy violates the principles of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. Consistent with those principles, we believe that states ought to retain jurisdiction over most criminal justice matters within their borders. This is how the Founders intended our system to function.”
The legislators want congressional leaders to insert a new provision into a funding bill covering the Justice Department’s 2019 budget that would prevent federal prosecutors, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies from spending money to go after people who are in compliance with state marijuana laws.
The language the lawmakers want included in the funding bill reads:
“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent any of the several states from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana on non-Federal lands within their respective jurisdictions.”
Separately on Friday, a group of 62 House Republican and Democrats sent a letter requesting the extension of existing, more limited appropriations protections that shield state medical cannabis laws from Justice Department intervention.
The medical marijuana provision has been part of federal since 2014, and has been extended with bipartisan House and Senate votes several times.
The broader protections to shield all state marijuana laws, including those that allow recreational use, from federal interference came just nine flipped votes short of passage in 2015. The number of states with legalization has more than doubled since then, and lawmakers from places with new laws would be more likely to support it if another vote were held, but House leaders have since blocked floor consideration of cannabis-related measures.
“As I have promised my fellow Coloradans, I will continue to advocate for this simple amendment to be added to the federal budget – shielding Colorado from the Trump administration’s attacks on states that have legalized marijuana,” Polis said in a press release about the new letter. “It would be a temporary, but urgent and necessary fix, as I continue to push for passage of my Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would finally lift the federal prohibition on marijuana.”
In the letter, the lawmakers argue that letting states enact their own cannabis laws is in keeping with constitutional principles laid out by the Founders of the nation.
“Experiences of states that have legalized marijuana, as compared to the experiences of states that have not, constitute the very ‘laboratories’ of social and economic experiments that were described by Chief Justice Louis Brandeis when he wrote about the beauty of the Tenth Amendment,” they said. “Our constitutional framework has afforded the whole nation the chance to allow states to differ on many matters of public policy, including marijuana.”
Stop Jeff Sessions From Busting Medical Marijuana, Bipartisan Lawmakers Demand
A bipartisan group of 62 members of Congress is asking House leaders to protect state medical marijuana policies and the patients and businesses that rely on them from federal enforcement agents and prosecutors.
“We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), wrote in a letter sent to the top Republican and Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee on Friday. “We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Medical Marijuana Ban A “Disgrace,” Congresswoman Tells Trump Veterans Chief
A congresswoman took a top Trump administration official to task over a policy that blocks military veterans from getting medical marijuana recommendations through the doctors that know them best, calling the federal government’s stance “a shame and disgrace.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs currently prohibits its physicians from filling out medical cannabis recommendations for veterans, even in states where it is legal.
“Coming from California, of course, you know we have a variety of dispensaries which make marijuana available to patients and veterans who use it for PTSD and chronic pain, and it works,” Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) told VA Sec. David Shulkin on Thursday.
“So what’s the problem?” she asked. “What’s the federal statute that blocks the VA from doing this, and not letting physicians simply recommend cannabis to veterans who need it? And it’s proven that it works.”
In a series of public remarks over the course of the past year, Shulkin has repeatedly claimed that overarching federal law blocks VA from recommending or even participating in research on medical marijuana.
But advocates have pointed out that there is no federal statute blocking the VA from changing its own internal policies on medical cannabis recommendations.
During the exchange, Shulkin seemed to be unaware of the distinction between prescribing medical marijuana, which no doctor can do due to its Schedule I status, and simply recommending it, which is how patients get access in the 29 states that allow its legal use.
“Filling out a questionnaire, isn’t that the step towards prescribing?” the secretary asked during the exchange with Lee, which took place at a hearing of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. “My understanding is federal law would not allow the physician to write the prescription, so I have to understand what the questionnaire would be in order to make a recommendation but not write a prescription.”
“Could we show you that questionnaire, Mr. Secretary?” Lee asked. “Because veterans need this, it works, and it’s a shame and disgrace that the VA is preventing this type of treatment that works.”
“Absolutely,” Shulkin replied. “I’d be glad to review that.”
Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can view video of the exchange below:
Shulkin has the unilateral authority to rescind the internal ban and clear the way for VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis to veterans in states where it is legal, but he has repeatedly claimed that federal law — without citing a particular statute — blocks him from doing so.
In recent weeks, a number of prominent veterans advocacy organizations like the American Legion and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have stepped up the push for access to medical cannabis.
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