A Higher Authority: Canada's Cannabis Legalization in the Context of International Law
58 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2018 Last revised: 1 May 2019
Date Written: October 8, 2018
Recreational cannabis is being decriminalized, deregulated and even legalized across a growing number of jurisdictions throughout the world. This article addresses the international law and policy implications of this trend, examining three international law frameworks — the drug control and anti-trafficking framework of the United Nations drug conventions, international human rights law, and the international economic law regime, in which the World Trade Organization (WTO) is central. In this article, we use Canada’s legal regime for cannabis liberalization as a case study that illuminates the tensions, but also the unexplored complementarities, between the different international legal regimes or orders that affect cannabis legalization. We argue that although the drug conventions appear to provide unequivocal requirements for drug criminalization, a closer read of the treaty texts suggest otherwise, particularly when read together with the international human rights obligations. At the same time, international economic law, which has largely been ignored in the discussion of cannabis legalization, demonstrates certain inconsistencies with the Canadian cannabis legalization scheme that must be taken into account in further legalization efforts by other states.
Keywords: Cannabis Legalization, Drug Conventions, Human Rights, International Economic Law, WTO, Cannabis
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation