Canada is currently being run by a Liberal majority government, which means the party, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, can oftentimes govern at will without fear of the opposition shutting down its ideas.
This situation was certainly true of the recent Bill C-45, which passed 52-29 in the Senate and legalized recreational marijuana at the federal level.
The Trudeau government may have carte blanche on the domestic front, but is the same true on the world stage?
In 1961, 1971, and 1988, Canada signed three international drug treaties, which were designed to quash the production and sale of any recreational drugs, including cannabis. Specifically, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs limits drug production and distribution to medical and scientific purposes only.
These treaties are the reason Canada has been receiving the stink-eye from its UN partners, as legalizing recreational marijuana would seem to be a clear violation of the agreements. The Canadian government has said little to nothing on this issue in the media, and to the United Nations as well.
It’s a bad idea for Canada to keep its head in the sand on these treaties because other countries with way bigger issues than marijuana legalization will think it’s OK to break their commitments as well. These include agreements on environmental responsibilities, human trafficking, the production of harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, and a whole host of problems that need to be kept in check by international commitments.
Cannabis has now been legalized in the Great White North and is scheduled to be available in retail stores across the country on Oct. 17, 2018. This domestic win for the Liberals has not gone unnoticed outside Canada, with the most recent international outcry coming from Russia, as well as the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) itself.
“INCB is very concerned about the public health situation in Canada which will result from the Government’s decision to legalize the non-medical use of cannabis,” said INCB President Viroj Sumyai in a June 21 press release. “We also call upon the government of Canada to consider the repercussions of its policy on other Member States.”
In the case of Russia’s recent finger-wagging on the issue, its Foreign Ministry issued a statement at the end of June saying they “expect Canada’s partners in the G7 to respond to its ‘high-handedness’ because this alliance has repeatedly declared its adherence to the domination of international law in relations between states.”
It should be noted that Russia is no longer a part of the alliance formerly known as the G8, so its attitude can arguably be seen as more of a criticism of the group’s morals than as a problem with cannabis legalization.
Regardless, both the INCB and Russia are not wrong. Trudeau and his cabinet have barely acknowledged the agreements, even to explain why Canada feels it has the right to proceed.
There is no word as to whether Trudeau will acknowledge the treaties in the future as legalization commences. Although there is nothing wrong with Canada changing its mind on an issue, at the very least, the countries that are party to the same rules from the same agreements are owed an explanation.