Countries pursuing cannabis reforms have been giving the United Nations something to think about when it comes to drug policy. The UN is an organization that was established to encourage and promote international cooperation on a variety of topics. When founded in 1945, only 51 countries were members, now, in 2017 193 of the 195 countries in the world are members. The mission of the United Nations is to maintain international peace, protect human rights, the environment, encourage social and economic development as well as provide humanitarian aid in times of crisis. Beyond those goals, the UN has also defined protocols influencing the framework of international drug policy.
In 1961, the UN adopted an international treaty called the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The treaty prohibits the production and supply of specific drugs. Earlier treaties criminalized opium, coca and derivatives of those compounds such as morphine, heroin and cocaine. It was during this convention that cannabis was similarly criminalized.
The United Nations did not create international laws, but instead provided a framework for governments across the world. It was the United Nation’s goal to monitor, support and oversee governments as they complied with the treaty. Since 1961, the United Nations has endeavored to address issues around illicit drugs, such as the increased prevalence.
In April of 2016, the United Nations held a special session on drugs. In 2009, the UN laid out their plans in order to achieve significant reduction in the supply and demand of drugs. The General Assembly was not set to meet again until 2019, however in 2012, the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico requested that the UN host an international conference on drug policy reform.
The conference was called for not only in response to the ineffectiveness of current drug policies across the world, but also the development of policies in many countries regarding the regulation of cannabis. While the UN has not changed its stance on drug policies, it has hindered in addressing cannabis drug policy reforms as many countries have only sought to decriminalize, not legalize the product.
The United Nations has always been in support of the use of scheduled drugs for scientific and medicinal purposes, however they maintain that not only is cannabis an addictive drug, but also a gateway drug. Member countries are currently reforming their drug policy in regards to cannabis resulting in the United Nations being forced to reassess their current stance on drug reforms. With the failure of punitive drug policies, the UN must reform their approach to illicit drugs if they truly wish to reduce the prevalence of drug abuse across the world.