Pot prob­lems ahead

Le­gal­iz­ing it in Canada will run afoul of global treaties, Trudeau warned

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS NOVA SCO­TIA

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment will have to do sub­stan­tial work on the in­ter­na­tional stage be­fore it can fol­low through on Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s prom­ise to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, new doc­u­ments sug­gest.

That work will have to in­clude fig­ur­ing out how Canada would com­ply with three in­ter­na­tional treaties to which the coun­try is a party, all of which crim­i­nal­ize the pos­ses­sion and pro­duc­tion of mar­i­juana.

Trudeau’s plan to le­gal­ize, reg­u­late and re­strict ac­cess to mar­i­juana is al­ready prov­ing a com­pli­cated and con­tro­ver­sial un­der­tak­ing on the do­mes­tic front, in part be­cause it re­quires work­ing with the prov­inces.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, says a brief­ing note pre­pared for the prime min­is­ter, Canada will also have to find a way to es­sen­tially tell the world how it plans to con­form to its treaty obli­ga­tions.

The note to Trudeau was ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press through the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act.

Er­rol Mendes, a con­sti­tu­tional and in­ter­na­tional law ex­pert at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa, says the gov­ern­ment faces a long, hard slog in the global arena be­fore it can le­gal­ize pot at home.

Le­gal­iza­tion, he said, is a grow­ing move­ment among some coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly in Latin Amer­ica, but it faces stiff op­po­si­tion in the United States — in­clud­ing within some quar­ters of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

If the Repub­li­cans win the White House in Novem­ber, the op­po­si­tion will be even stronger in a coun­try where some see le­gal­iz­ing pot “as the thin edge of the wedge,” said Mendes.

“It will be an on­go­ing di­a­logue which has to be dealt with at the high­est lev­els, and it’s not go­ing to be an easy one, and it’s not go­ing to be a quick one ei­ther. It’s go­ing to take many years.”

The Lib­eral pol­icy means that Canada will have to amend its par­tic­i­pa­tion in three in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions:

• The Sin­gle Con­ven­tion on Nar­cotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Pro­to­col;

• The Con­ven­tion on Psy­chotropic Sub­stances of 1971;

• The United Na­tions Con­ven­tion against Il­licit Traf­fic in Nar­cotic Drugs and Psy­chotropic Sub­stances of 1988.

“All three re­quire the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of pos­ses­sion and pro­duc­tion of cannabis,” says the brief­ing note.

“As part of ex­am­in­ing le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis pos­ses­sion and pro­duc­tion, Canada will need to ex­plore how to in­form the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and will have to take the steps needed to ad­just its obli­ga­tions un­der th­ese con­ven­tions.”

Global Af­fairs Canada, the lead gov­ern­ment depart­ment on in­ter­na­tional treaties, did not re­spond to a se­ries of ques­tions on what lies ahead for the gov­ern­ment on that front. The world’s drug prob­lem will be the fo­cus of a spe­cial ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly in April, the memo says.

“At the meet­ing, sev­eral South Amer­i­can coun­tries as well as Mex­ico wish to dis­cuss what they per­ceive as more ef­fec­tive pol­icy ap­proaches to re­spond to the cur­rent re­al­i­ties of the drug prob­lem, which could in­clude de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion/le­gal­iza­tion of il­licit drugs, harm re­duc­tion, and/or a call to rene­go­ti­ate the in­ter­na­tional drug con­trol con­ven­tions.”

Mendes said Canada could still find a way to ad­here to the treaties, but will have to show that le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana helps re­duce il­licit drug use.

“There’s no in­ter­na­tional treaty where you can­not make reser­va­tions,” he said.

“The prob­lem is the gov­ern­ment hav­ing to ex­plain why it’s do­ing it, why it feels it has to do it, given the con­vic­tion (with which) Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau has said it’s a fail­ure in terms of en­force­ment in al­most ev­ery re­spect and is driv­ing up the crime rate in some parts of Canada.”

The Lib­er­als plan to re­move mar­i­juana consumption and in­ci­den­tal pos­ses­sion from the Crim­i­nal Code, while cre­at­ing new laws with heavy penal­ties to those who give it to mi­nors or op­er­ate a mo­tor ve­hi­cle un­der its in­flu­ence.

Trudeau has promised to set up a task force com­pris­ing fed­eral, provin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, while seek­ing in­put from ex­perts.

AP PHOTO

Lib­eral plans to le­gal­ize pot in this coun­try needs a lot of work on a global scale be­fore it can be­come are re­al­ity, a new doc­u­ment sug­gests.

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