Legalization in Canada: The United Nations Problem | Marijuana

Legalization in Canada: The United Nations Problem


Although it seems that everything is on track to legalize marijuana in Canada, the one elephant in the room which has not been addressed is how the country plans to navigate the UN Drug Control Treaties.

Those prohibitionist-era documents include the Single Convention on Narcotics, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Little has been said by the federal government as to how they plan to deal with these signed agreements, but a University of Ottawa student think-tank has come up with a very creative plan to move forward.

“Canada faces a challenge in that the government has decided it’s going to legalize cannabis but also respect the rule of international law at the same time,” said Steven Hoffman, the Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Global Strategy Lab in an interview with “Those two goals are not easily reconciled given the UN Drug Control Treaties make it very clear that countries have to prohibit cannabis for nonmedical purposes,” added Hoffman.

Hoffman decided it was a great exercise for the next generation of Canadian lawyers to ponder over. “I gave my students the impossible task of trying to find a way that the Canadian government could legalize cannabis for all purposes, without violating the treaties and without withdrawing from the treaties,” said Hoffman.

The students assessed the different potential workarounds for Canadians to enjoy legal cannabis. The eureka moment then arrived, according to Hoffman:

“If the government structures the legalization as one big science experiment, then Canada could claim that it was in-keeping with the treaties because they allow for cannabis to be made available for scientific purposes.”

In this creative way to free cannabis from the chains of prohibition, legalization would be framed as a social experiment. In this experiment, Canadians who choose to partake in legal weed, as well as their fellow citizens, would be the test subjects. The final results would point to how legalization affects the country as a whole, both socially and in the general health of the nation. “[In this way]  we can legalize cannabis because it’s for scientific purposes and meet the treaties without having to withdraw from them,” said Hoffman.

Any departure from the requirements of the treaties would have to be as minimal as possible. Additionally, the experiment would need to be framed in a way that shows we cannot do the science without complete legalization, as it would affect the results of the study. According to Hoffman, “One question that might require full legalization would be something like, what are the intergenerational health and social effects of access to legal cannabis?”

Although the experiment is a way to sidestep these agreements without ruffling too many international feathers, Hoffman was quick to point out that whatever we do there is no easy way out of these obsolete documents. “Our first conclusion is that none of the workarounds are particularly great. It’s pretty clear that the treaties require prohibition, and Canada’s move is likely to come up against them,” added Hoffman.

Hoffman and his students have published the report in the hopes that the feds will take notice. contacted Global Affairs Canada but did not receive a response on the issue.

No matter how Canada chooses to deal with the UN Drug Control Treaties, some type of action will need to take place.

These treaties prohibiting cannabis were signed without any clear scientific evidence that marijuana does harm. Perhaps the best way to pull out is to scientifically prove that legalization is, in fact, a positive step forward.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett

About Author

Jon Hiltz was a journalist for for two years and is now director of content for INDIVA, a licensed cannabis producer in Ontario Canada.


  1. Not to mention the parliamentarians who got their nose out of joint because Trudeau has been very assumptive on how quickly this bill will pass. It will have to go through three rounds of review and potentially committee papers and rewrites in both houses. The third complication of course is Trump and the Border issues.

  2. That is one of the first questions I would have brought up, why is Cannabis on the UN drug control treatie to begin with if there is no actual scientific evidence that it is a devastating type of drug??? Alcohol isn’t there and it killed over 88,000 people last year in the US alone. Tobacco isn’t there and its killed over 480,000 a year in the US. So WTF??? There is something really missing here and most nations don’t want to talk about it, all they want to do is keep it illegal without true scientific evidence to back it up! There is plenty of scientific evidence to back up it medical uses and very little to back up its claim about how bad this wonderful plant is. All they have is “it could do this or it could do that or this could possibly happen”. In the past all the US did was look for the negative never the positive. If you look for the negative in anything hard enough you will find something bad. That’s with anything, no matter how good it is there is always something negative to be found. The problem is there isn’t really anything that negative about cannabis mainly positive but many governments around the world seem to think it is a bad thing without any major scientific evidence just political innuendos.

    • You make some great points Jim. I believe in the US that our government wants to protect the pharmaceutical industry so they can keep profiting off of sick people rather than having a cost effective cure. Healthy people are not profitable people. I cannot speak to the UN though. Was the US the one who proposed these treaties to protect its own interests of greed?

    • Good post Jim. In the US, the federal government is bereft of decency, honesty, and integrity. The federal government exempts by name the two most deadly & dangerous of all drugs, tobacco & alcohol, from the CSA, even though tobacco is a schedule I controlled substance by definition and alcohol is a schedule II controlled substance by definition.

      The federal government outright lies in the CSA by falsely labeling cannabis a schedule I controlled substance. The federal government irrationally, immorally, and unjustly makes the two most deadly & dangerous of all drugs, tobacco & alcohol, uncontrolled substances, while criminalizing and punitively restricting the use of drugs less deadly & dangerous than tobacco & alcohol.

      The exemption of the two most deadly & dangerous drugs, tobacco & alcohol, from the CSA and virtually every drug law is prima facie evidence that the federal government is composed of evil people who do not know the difference between right & wrong.

      These prohibition treaties and prohibition laws are all null & void because they deny individuals the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and effectively make people slaves of the government, giving the government dominion & control over individual’s very bodies.

      • Tamala Young on

        I do believe that 3 out of 4 people either use marijuana or have. I think the lack of education is the only defense in illegal marijuana laws. I think the more this issue become know the more the illegality of marijuana will diminish.

      • Thanks for your comments. There’s a lot there to mull about while I’m treating my arthritis with a fatty. With out it I’d be unable to work, actually unable to move! Couldn’t agree more with your smokes and booze comments too.

    • A add coffee kava to that list of legal drugs of course anything can be a drug if abused enough even sex! So the UN need to update it data on dangerous drugs and Cannabis is not one of them. I’m hopeful Canada will make it legal and show the world how this social experiment will be a positive move toward decriminalization and acceptance. Tobacco and alcohol kill more people than coffee or kava.

    • The UN Drug Control Treaties are their because of paranoid American governments that believed a lying SOB named Nixon. You know how American governments over the years want to rule the world? Well that was a beginning.
      Don’t bow to these draconian policies repudiate them and exit from the treaties that haven’t been enacted legally, the drug was falsely described and does not remotely resemble the one described in those treaties.

  3. The UN is useless, toothless organization all they do is talk they never act millions of innocents die unspeakable deaths in war zones while they talk and talk and talk and never do anything.
    So in my humble opinion they can F off and mind their business Canada will make it’s own decisions and decide it’s own destiny as for the United States they are hypocrites cannabis is legal in several states and more are looking to legalize they can F Off too.

  4. So its ok for pretty much every country to ignore treaties when it suits them. but Canada, NonoooooooNonnoonooooo

    even now, canabis is legal in most of the USA… nobody said shit about their signatures on the treaties.

    • Well, in the USA we “solved” the problem by having the states legalize weed while keeping federal law contrary. So far, no nation has attacked us because of violation of the treaty. Maybe it is because our states are not signatories to international treaties. The two biggest problems we have with weed in the USA are: (1) an entrenched law enforcement bureaucracy that profits from imprisoning drug users and has learned over the years that white people wont complain if they only enforce the possession laws against people of color; and (2) disenfranchisement of felons, which continues a fundamentally racist drug policy and supports the continuation of our traditional rule of white supremacy.

      Unlike Canada, we dont worry very much about international law, and we only worry about human rights violations in other countries. Undoubtedly the situation will improve now that we have elected a KGB operative as our President.

      • Tamala Young on

        For the lack of education and knowledge is the reason for the passive involvement in the drug war using marijuana as a scapegoat. And for another thing I do not believe white people targeted Blacks or Hispanics. I do believe the knowledge did not exist. We know less about the black communities so how can we judge or why would we judge. That is a very unfair accusation. When will we just be considered people not categorized because of race or skin color? That is a true injustice. The Constitutions says “WE THE PEOPLE” not “WE THE WHITE PEOPLE”.

  5. Every one of these UN treaties are null and void because they irrationally, immorally, and unjustly exempt by name or omit the two most deadly & dangerous of all drugs, tobacco & alcohol.

    If international treaties were created and agreed to by the representatives of each signatory nation that were drawn up to define and prohibit acts of violence against persons other than the actor (violence against one’s own self is not a crime) and which exempted by name or simply omitted the two most deadly & dangerous acts of violence against another, viz. murder & rape; sane decent moral nations would rightly point out that these treaties were null & void due to the irrationality, immorality, and injustice of exempting or omitting the two most deadly & dangerous acts of violence, and the authors of these treaties would be judged as being evil people who are unable to tell the difference between right & wrong.

    So it is with all these UN drug prohibition treaties. All of these treaties exempt by name or omit the two most deadly & dangerous of all drugs, tobacco & alcohol. Therefore, these treaties are all null & void due to their irrationality, immorality, and basic injustice, and the authors of these treaties were evil people who were unable to tell the difference between right & wrong.

  6. Hell the US does whatever it wants, why not Canada? Fuck archaic law and the UN. The UN should be invading the US to remove its criminal government and mentally challenged president. Didn’t feel like making a logical argument so I went straight to emotional response. Gonna go smoke recreationally with my medical card and chill.

  7. Harald Longshanks on

    Those who complain of harm in the face of all reasonable evidence to the contrary should be pointed towards Portugal, where all drugs are now legal, including heroin, PCP, and cocaine. It’s made a huge improvement by treating addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal one. If they continue to complain they should be educated, then ridiculed, and finally, after a swift kick in the giblets, ignored.

  8. Salutations,


    It’s a good thing i guess that part of the community finally considers leaving some TrudeauMania behind in order to change their perspective and look forward for more trustable guiding lights; because indeed there’s an elephant in the room, most obviously, but right down under there’s even more that still fails to fully meet the eye and that’s planet Itnoc:

    In The Name Of Children!!

    Back to 1925 when “Indian Hemp” was first demonized at the League of Nations, thanks to the “science” as that of doctor John Warnock running an assylum in Cairo/Egypt, etc., euh… Their twisted treaty wasn’t all too clear how blind socio-toxic prohibitionism would “save” any child, nor what the “danger” was supposed to be – e.g. it was pure sensationalism to mention “Marahuana – A New Menace” (The Black Candle, Emily F. Murphy, 1922) knowing it a non-issue (in those good old days), essentially!

    Imagine, no money-driven THC-optimized genetic selection to boost “stoner”/”droÿés”sales, etc…

    In other words the yet-to-emerge crisis came from misguided/self-serving 3rd-party interventionism which created some sort of “harm” that proved a lot worse, through permanent prejudice inflicted via traumatic abuse, in “Tough-Love” fashion for example, etc. The orinial intent being only to gain more attention and support from a vulnerable naïve audience i think.

    As a matter of fact with Justin Trudeau today there’s been cases of HOMICIDE by POLICE over “Mari-Caca” on both side of the USA/Canada border, with Bill G20 Blair hiding in a dark corner: the good apples perfer to protect the bad ones i’m afraid, so nothing is ever corrected, etc. They call it “The Thin Blue Line”, go wonder!…

    Anyway, at the present moment persistant (TrudeauMania) rumors of “legaleezation” for 4 x 1 meter plants per address (read per electric meter!…) starting from authorized (possibly GMO Bio-Tracking?!) seeds appears to spell for even more vilifying hate-culture if one asks me: cannabis and its consumers have become synonymous to epidemic plague…

    M’well, ask the Emery couple about it… There’s absolutely no love behind this project, ZERO respect for those who MiniHarper just doesn’t want to please…

    Then, talking of UN meetings, lets not forget who’s the real boss behind:

    Trudeau sent her as his emissary to prepare UNGASS 2016, pretending he will “legaleeze” while his electoral platform doesn’t even translate “incidental possession” as “possession simple” in the French version (…), which is NOT legally equivalent and hence proves that he plain used the language barrier to manipulate all Canadians: divide to conquer!!

    So… Forget those political promisses as there’s only 1 ideology installed in Ottawa and that’s why we get only 1 side of the story(ies) through traditional media.

    Evidently i’m standing with anyone who genuinely wants to save a child for real but when i consider that canola oil sells 2.16 $ CAD per litre and CBD oil 129 $ per milli-litre then it’s all too clear taxation is the main objective while there are just no statistically-ellusive lost children showing up on the radar just yet. Still, “saving” them costs a great deal… So where’s the detailed bill?!…

    Worse, the new inflated economic tensions can be reasonably expected to boost mercantile appeal both for BANNED-pesticide-loving LPs and their “organized crime” competitor$ they want dead, literally, with the lost children of planet Itnoc taken hostage in the meantime, waiting for a “drug-free world” utopia…

    IMO there’s much more urgent than proving the supremacy of some obsolete ideology inherited from Henri-Sévérin Béland and peers; one great Liberal doctor/policitician who performed the 1923 national ban in total denial of the province’s previous legal status in the British Dominion, not to mention our fresh Canadian democracy in Ottawa…

    Quite frankly the bigot anti-cannabic prohibitionists have been expressing their fascination for our lesser sides in extenso! Enough, that’s simply too practical to redirect the mediatic attention elsewhere when it fact every Canuck voter should look very closely at the root of this evil “sin” industry, now about to launch another (follow the money): piss testing and insurances!!

    Good day, have fun!! 😉

  9. The bottom line folks at the end of the day Every Global Government is aware that if Cannabis is to be legalized how can they instill the FEAR FACTOR to control society? Because let’s say they legalize Cannabis in Canada, all of The U.S. then our attitudes towards War and other destabilizing misinformation disinformation will have a too relaxed perception of what Government’s want us to react to which is “FEAR” ! You & I know there is nothing wrong with legalization of Cannabis. For example, like one post I read here if you look at anything there are negative things about most any product if you look into it just like if your intake of Sugar is too much you will most likely get Diabetes but the Government here in the U.S. don’t care if you can get sick because then they want to put you on their Pharmaceutical agenda to control the market and line their pockets even if the Medication says Warning Dangerous Side Affects? What _? If you take too much Aspirin you can die, so I am not buying all their Propaganda. Their main thing is all they want to be able to do is CONTROL us ! Why do you think the Government’s label things like Medications as “CONTROLLED” SUBSTANCE’S? The Government does not hesitate to go and KILL innocent people in other Countries they have KILLED so many people which is unnecessary and just another excuse to justify that it is OK to do that ! We live in a World that tells us what we can do and what we can’t do. We are not FREE to make our own choices they are made for us. I did not vote for that ! The Government’s pass Laws under the table while you & I are sleeping just to wake up and learn we can’t do this anymore like we have been doing for over 100 year’s? But it is OK to smoke Cigarettes and you can drink Liquor here where I live starting at 7 AM to 2 AM just got wait for only 5 hour’s to do it again ! Alcohol poisoning sure that’s OK and guess what if you are so intoxicated with Liquor why not go for a drive & do a hit & run killing children & adults crossing the street going to work & going to school after an all night 19 hour Alcohol drinking binge that’s OK just need to wait 5 more hours for that next bottle of Alcohol ! Really ? All of the Politician’s drink Alcohol with their BIG ILLEGAL CIGAR’S from Cuba why don’t we make that illegal and see how fast they over turn that Bill. They found a way to legalize Alcohol which to me is far more dangerous not only is it dangerous but it is also very COMBUSTIBLE- FLAMMABLE like GASOLINE and to think these people attended the top Universities in the World even on campus you can find Alcohol & illegal dangerous drugs, rapes, shootings etc. but that’s acceptable. C’mon now !

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