Uruguay and its President, Jose Mujica, have been making headlines recently for legislation to regulate the marijuana market. President Mujica has been determined to pass the law, supporting the movement throughout the legislative process and defending the policy to opponents both in his own country and abroad. Now that the law has passed, Uruguay is facing pressure from the U.N., which accuses the legislature of violating an international convention.
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 essentially bans countries from allowing the consumption or production of specific drugs, except for medical or research purposes. The United Nations Information Service has released a document explaining how Uruguay is violating the convention.
According to the President, “the decision of the Uruguayan legislature fails to consider its negative impacts on health since scientific studies confirm that cannabis is an addictive substance with serious consequences for people’s health. In particular, the use and abuse of cannabis by young people can seriously affect their development.”
Cannabis is not only addictive but may also affect some fundamental brain functions, IQ potential, and academic and job performance and impair driving skills. Smoking cannabis is more carcinogenic than smoking tobacco.
The health claims of the U.N.I.S. are without merit. Studies into marijuana’s effect on the body show that it is safer than alcohol and has fewer long-term effects than tobacco. Furthermore, contrary to what Mr. Yans states, marijuana is not linked with cancer, unlike tobacco, which causes more than five million deaths per year.
The current U.N. drug policy and the 1961 Convention are not compatible with an evidence-based approach to drug policy. Luckily, Uruguay is not the only country looking to reform the world’s approach to marijuana. Recently, there has been evidence that the U.N. is losing support for the war on drugs. Hopefully, international policy can be adapted to reflect current knowledge surrounding marijuana and the consequences of prohibition. Until then, Uruguay and other countries looking to regulate marijuana may find an enemy in the U.N.