UN International Narcotics Control Board Calls For Decriminalization of “Simple Possession”

UN International Narcotics Control Board Calls For Decriminalization of “Simple Possession”
UN International Narcotics Control Board Calls For Decriminalization of “Simple Possession”

In what could be the strongest international rebuke of the United States’ self-declared “War on Drugs”, the United Nation’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) recently released an “alert” regarding policies on drug-related offenses.

The INCB oversees compliance with three international drug control conventions: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

An article from Cannabis Wire covers this policy announcement:

"In the announcement, the Board advocates for the decriminalization of simple possession, underscoring that “There is no obligation stemming from the conventions to incarcerate drug users who commit minor offences.”

In many countries, writes the Board, the “policies to address drug-related criminality, including personal use, have continued to be rooted primarily in punitive criminal justice responses,” such as prosecution and incarceration. Meanwhile, “alternative measures such as treatment, rehabilitation and social integration remain underutilized.”

This policy announcement is with respect to all currently illegal narcotics, not simply a mildly psychoactive substance like the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana. The alert also included a recommendation for the “abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences”. The message here is clear and it’s nothing that most investors won’t have read/heard from many other sources: criminalization (and incarceration) for drug use is a failed policy.

Gambling addiction is a serious and self-destructive behavioral problem. Not only do we refrain from incarcerating gamblers, our governments are allowing ever-greater access to gambling (and peddling their own lottery tickets).

Alcoholism is a form of drug addiction that is notorious for the amount of social, legal, and economic harm that it produces. The United States tried alcohol Prohibition once. It discovered that the only thing worse than legalizing the use of alcohol was to criminalize it – driving alcohol use underground and handing this lucrative industry to organized crime.

The significance here for cannabis investors is simple. While any serious dialogue to decriminalize genuine “hard drugs” like heroin or LSD is many years away, this UN announcement puts further pressure on the U.S. government to (at the very least) de-list marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic and officially separate it from the government’s overall War on Drugs.

The additional context here is that the U.S. federal government (and the DEA) is currently being sued – on constitutional grounds – with respect to its designation of marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic. A U.S. Court of Appeal recently reinstated this lawsuit.

When this lawsuit next comes before a judge, undoubtedly among the evidence that will be introduced by the plaintiffs is this UN report that rejects criminalization (of simple possession) for any drug. With Canada having legalized cannabis at the national level (with no negative repercussions from this policy change) and with many other nations – on several continents – also moving steadily toward full cannabis legalization, the federal government’s legal stance on cannabis is becoming increasingly untenable.
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