The United Nations General Assembly is set to hold a special session on the world drug problem in Manhattan this week, and those in the cannabis space are watching closely to see whether the meeting could bring any changes in global drug rules.
For decades, international drug policies have focused on the prohibition and criminalization of drug use, an approach that has lead to violence, corruption and mass incarceration. Writing for the Weed Blog, Phillip Smith points out that drug related violence has left at least 100,000 dead in Mexico alone over the past decade. Tens of thousands more have”disappeared.”
Governments, specifically those of Latin American countries, are calling for more evidence-based drug policies, and as Open Society Foundations explains, UNGASS 2016 may be the first time that an international debate on drugs does more than simply reinforce the status quo.

Slow to change

But while the conversation may be open, many are skeptical that the meeting will produce real change. Currently, there are three treaties that effectively enforce global drug prohibition and the UN’s 1998 vision for a “drug free world.” They are:

  • The 1972 Protocol amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (Single Convention of 1961)
  • The 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances (CPS)
  • The 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances

None of these treaties are up for discussion in this week’s meeting. As notes, in the outcome document that’s being recommended for adoption at the UNGASS “[t]he preamble ‘reaffirms’ and ‘underlines’ the three drug control conventions.”
Still, countries such as the United States have already made moves to legalize cannabis within their own borders, arguing that their changes in policy are still within the bounds of the treaty. Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau has said that Canada will look to legalize cannabis at the federal level, treaties or not.
“This is significant, as any possibilities for reforming the international drug control treaties can only come to bear once countries decide that the treaties are no longer fit for purpose – and that starts with acknowledging that cannabis legalization isn’t permitted,” states OpenCanada.

What does it mean for investors?

Speaking to the Investing News Network, Alan Brochstein of 420 Investor stated that a change to the treaties could mean big changes for the cannabis space.
Why? “Because you could have a global change in how nations view cannabis,” he said. Brochstein that the treaties mentioned above are outdated, and that many nations moving towards evidence-based policies don’t believe in them anymore.

To be sure, Mexican Senator Laura Angelica Rojas Hernández would agree with that statement.
“There is a lack of recognition of the relative efficacy of demand reduction and harm reduction policies and the absence of an acknowledgement of the high costs that the prohibitionist and punitive approaches have generated,” she was quoted as saying by the Weed Blog. “The international community should continue to work toward the establishment of indicators that could help measure the impact of drug policies on people’s lives and their rights.”
And of course, changes to the treaties could also have an impact for businesses starting to establish themselves in the legal cannabis market. “There’s a really good chance that Canada, Israel, Jamaica, South America [could] be able to export to each other,” should a policy change come through, Brochstein stated. “This could really be an opportunity for countries that are on the verge, of or that have, national programs.”
Certainly, cannabis investors will want to keep an eye on the outcome of the UNGASS, and on any future developments with regards to the treaties mentioned above.
Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates.
Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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