Uruguay’s move to legalize cannabis endangers global anti-drug effort, UN agency says

Cannabis plants. UN Photo/John Robaton

11 December 2013 – Amid growing debate over international drug control policy in Latin America, the United Nations drug and crime agency today said that a decision by the Uruguayan parliament to legalize cannabis is a strike against international cooperation.

The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yuri Fedotov said that confronting illicit drugs and their impact is dependent on pursuing a comprehensive response to the problem based on health, long-term security, development and institution-building.

“Just as illicit drugs are everyone’s shared responsibility, there is a need for each country to work closely together and to jointly agree on the way forward for dealing with this global challenge,” he said in a statement.

The move, which Mr. Fedotov termed “unfortunate”, comes ahead of a special session on the ongoing world drug problem, to be held at the UN General Assembly in 2016.

He noted that next year, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will hold a high-level review of Member States’ implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on the world drug problem and said that would have been an opportunity for countries to pursue a coherent approach to drug trafficking.

Mr. Fedotov also said that UNODC agrees with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body mandated to implement UN international drug control conventions, which earlier today said it “regrets” the decision by Montevideo.

In its statement, the Board said “…the legislation to legalize production, sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes approved yesterday in Uruguay contravenes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, to which Uruguay is a party.”

INCB President Raymond Yans said he was “surprised” that policymakers “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed provisions of the treaty.”

The Vienna-based agency also noted that Uruguayan policymakers failed to consider the negative impacts on health which confirm that cannabis is an addictive substance with serious consequences and longer-term development applications.


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