A Higher Authority: Canada's Cannabis Legalization in the Context of International Law

58 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2018 Last revised: 1 May 2019

See all articles by Antonia Eliason

Antonia Eliason

University of Mississippi School of Law

Robert L. Howse

New York University School of Law

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

Eliason, Antonia and Howse, Robert, A Higher Authority: Canada's Cannabis Legalization in the Context of International Law (October 8, 2018). Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3262773 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3262773

Antonia Eliason (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi School of Law ( email )

Lamar Law Center
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States

Robert Howse

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

HOME PAGE: http://rb.gy/0icrno

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics