Canadian flag flying against the sun.

Canada’s newly elected Liberal Party, headed by Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau, may be poised to legalize marijuana there. Cannabis legalization was a main feature of the party’s electoral campaign. From its website:

“We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana. Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.”

The only other country to legalize pot so far is Uruguay. Some, such as the Netherlands and Spain, have greatly relaxed enforcement, but have not legalized it.

If Canada goes through with legalization, it could mark a sea change for international drug policy, which is predicated on a network of treaties. This series of treaties includes the the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Drugs of 1971, and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

By legalizing cannabis and rejecting these treaties, Canada would send a clear message to the United Nations, which plans to review these international agreements in its 2016 session. Indeed, the treaties themselves would lose power as another nation decides to forego them. It is unlikely that the United States, the de facto force behind the treaties in the past, would sanction Canada, especially as four states have now legalized cannabis.


Photo Credit: Alex Indigo

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