Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



Since the early 1970’s, the inclusion of cannabis and its byproducts in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs has mandated a strict prohibition on cultivation and use of the substance, which has led to a largely global practice of criminalization and imprisonment of anyone found to be in its possession. Yet recently, mostly in response to growing public health concerns, countries like Uruguay, Portugal, The Netherlands, Canada, and the United States have enacted laws which seek to decriminalize or even legalize cannabis use and possession. Yet, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule IV narcotic under the Single Convention, a categorization reserved for only the most dangerous of drugs. This article traces the history of cannabis’ inclusion in the international treaties that collectively establish the framework under which cannabis currently regulated across the globe and outlines how the cannabis policies of the aforementioned countries have been enacted in spite of those treaties. The article then analyzes proposed methods of amending the current Conventions, while ultimately suggesting a policy of renunciation and re-accession as the most suitable method for maintaining international treaty compliance in the face of a global rise in efforts to legalize and decriminalize recreational cannabis use.