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Four of the United States and the District of Columbia are in violation of a United Nations drug policy. This week, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, publicly scolded the United States for this offense. The Uruguayan government was scolded earlier this year when they became the first country to violate the treaty by legalizing cannabis throughout the entire country.

In 1961, seventy-three countries, including Uruguay and the United States under the Kennedy administration, agreed upon and signed an international drug treaty . The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prohibits recreational cultivation, use and sale of certain drugs, like marijuana. It is not in violation of the convention if marijuana is cultivated, used or sold only for medical treatment and research. This means that legalizing cannabis for recreational use in four states and the District of Columbia is in violation of this fifty-three-year old treaty.

Fedotov told Reuters that this will be an important topic with the U.S. State Department and other United Nations agencies in Washington, next week, and explained,

“I don’t see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing conventions.”

The states where voters legalized recreational marijuana are already violating their own nation’s federal law, so why not a United Nations treaty? This treaty is more than fifty years old, and much has been learned since the days of yore, when it was negotiated. Perhaps this will be a good jumping off point to reform the marijuana policies of the United Nations to better suite the views of the changing world.

photo credit: Carlos Gracia

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