After legislation drafted by America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, became law in 1937, a global wave of prohibition was launched. This included the United Nations, through which several global treaties outlawing marijuana are still in force today.
As an increasing number of states begin legalizing marijuana and even allowing regulated and taxed sales, the United States finds itself in a precarious and highly ironic situation: It is, technically speaking, violating the very international laws and treaties it originally encouraged.
All this may change, however — at least within the United Nations. According to Tom Angell, a prominent marijuana legalization advocate and founder of Marijuana Majority:
The United Nations is kicking off the first comprehensive review of global drug policies in nearly two decades this week, and a broad coalition of organizations is calling on the body to respect countries that legalize marijuana and enact other drug policy reforms.
This coalition, comprised of 100 organizations, is asking the U.N. to appoint a “Committee of Experts” to consider treaty reform. The Jamaican minister of justice, Mark Golding, made this proposal Thursday morning in New York.
The group, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, is hoping to convince the U.N. to update its global drug policies with a sensitivity toward nations that have chosen to end prohibition and instead regulate drugs like cannabis.
“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. He continued,
“It doesn’t make sense to oppose having a discussion within the U.N. about modernizing the treaties.”
In a statement, Borden also explained, “Minister Golding’s call for an Committee of Experts on drug treaty reform is a bold and historic step forward for global drug policy. Defenders of the status quo can no longer paint the idea of regulating and controlling drugs, as opposed to prohibiting them, as against the will of the international community or lacking political support. Now it’s time for governments including that of the US to step up and do all they can to make the global drug policy system more humane and more respectful of human rights.”
The wave of medical and recreational cannabis legalization throughout the world isn’t the only reason for the group’s action. Ending the violence and corruption in Latin America, epitomized by brutal drug cartel terrorism in Mexico, is also a central focus of this effort.
The April execution by firing squad of eight drug smugglers in Indonesia, which prompted international outrage, is a recent and glaring example of the need for international reforms that keep pace with not only global marijuana legalization, but also basic human rights.