The 2nd Intersessional Meeting of the 61st session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs took place in Vienna on the 25th of June 2018. The meeting started with Chair Alicia Buenrostro Massieu of Mexico presenting the agenda for adoption, then proceeded to the first agenda point: Follow-up to the regular 61st session of CND, resolution 60/1 and resolution 61/10.
Follow up to the regular 61st session of the CND
Angela Me welcomed the historical occasion of an all-female leadership at the meeting and presented the work of the Statistics and Survey section as a follow-up to the data collection aspects of the expert group consultations: She outlined the UNODC’s intentions regarding strengthened data collection and analysis tools, the progress of which is to be reported for the commission’s consideration during the 62nd session. So far, one expert group discussion has been conducted where capacity building and collaboration with partners sates, experts and civil society has been identified as essential in supporting member states with their reporting mechanisms. Me underlined the relevance of fruitful discussions with experts appointed by member states in their decision to update the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ). In order to move forward, her team has conducted discussions regarding their operational budget and are now in contact with the European Union, who committed to financially support the process. The UNODC have taken the recommendations of national experts seriously and is preparing a new draft that will be reviewed again at the second expert consultation. The projected timeline pinpoints the December reconvened session for the submission of the new ARQ draft as they need 6-8 months of preparation for the consultations upon receiving funding. The outcomes of the January consultations are available here.
Pakistan expressed their support for strengthening efforts to improve drug statistics to develop informed policies but questioned the mandate assigned by resolution 60/1 and asked whether an explicit mandate from the commission to update ARQ would be needed.
Angela Me explained that they acted on their interpretation of the resolution as an invitation to strengthen and streamline data collection, including the quality of the questionnaire. The work is all done as UNODC and then CND will be presented with it for approval. The work is along how data collection will be more efficient, but yes, the last word is with the CND.
Netherlands: Gathering data is key for efficiency and for having evidence that shows what works and what doesn’t – it should be a fundamental pillar for balanced drug policies. The Netherlands fully supports the expansion of the evidence base, so to construct a realistic picture of the world drug problem and thus enhance preparations for 2019 and beyond.
Egypt was surprised by the liberty the Secretariat took in deciding which path to take in pursuance of improved data collection. Their interpretation of the mandate doesn’t include choosing to develop a new ARQ, but the contrary. Possible options have been requested in approaching the improvement and member states should have time to reflect on the options at hand so Egypt requests having different possible paths to take.
Belgium underlined the importance of relevant reliable data as a foundation for understanding the world drug problem, highlighting the importance of joint commitments as the UNGASS outcome document brought critical ideas to light and new topics that can be implemented into our works and the global policy framework. Belgium had a few questions: Where does the UNODC stand on relying on data that is collected by other UN agencies? What is the timeline regarding the second expert meeting? Is it still feasible for this year? Would that be the final one or do we need a third one?
Angela Me responded that if this critical exercise is done in a smart way, we can mitigate the additional burdens of data collection while promoting system-wide coherence.
India: What is the status of the draft ARQ? Is the second expert group going to take place this year? Is it going to be finalized here on the basis of capitals feedback?
USA recognized the high priority of enhanced data collection and streamlining the ARQ in countering the world drug problem. The 2009 declaration did not include critical details and based on an evidence and science driven joint agreement, the ARQ needs to be updated.
Iran: A low response rate to the ARQ is a concern. Has this been addressed by the expert group?
Switzerland expressed support for improved data collection and scientific understanding of policy making. For an evidence based approach, it is important what questions are member states asked to see the facts – ie. independence of statistics and politics.
China supports streamlining data collection systems and calls for more possibilities of improving the quality and effect of that. China thinks the consultation process itself should involve member states to a larger extent and needs more transparency in order to not create extra burden with hollow and too general, not drug-related questions so to collect real evidence.
Singapore asked for the clarification for the mandate regarding expert meetings, working groups and consensus as they see a slight gap in the process. More guidance is needed on how the ARQ should be drafted. Is there a reversal of this process or an opportunity for the commission to revise the ARQ?
Brazil showed general support for evidence collection and member-support: an external review of research at the UNODC might be useful as the independence of statisticians in their work is crucial. Funding should not affect their impartiality as it is a very important exercise that serves as the base of scientific discussions. Funding member states’ work in providing the data could be of benefit.
Panama had issues with the ARQ and reiterated the importance of member states sending experts to improve the ARQ so that policies can be improved.
Malaysia: A more comprehensive, more streamlined data collection is indeed of importance but the resolution also calls for the study on why member states are unable to respond to previous ARQs. What has been done to address this?
France supports the updated ARQ and thanks the work of Me’s team for improving the system.
Argentina has been actively engaged, is periodically reviewing the content of the ARQ, works on it internally as it is very important and is ready for further discussions.
EU: The expert committee was widely representative and has done great work. There are some commonalities in the discussion today and these need to be in focus going forward: we need more data in terms of geographic and thematic coverage, we need more user friendly interfaces, we need to improve the response rate. The expert consultations are dealing with these question but a wider contribution is encouraged as inclusiveness and consensus is the basis of this work. With resolutions 60/1, 53/15 there is a double mandate to periodically review the ARQs. The world drug problem is a multifaceted issue, we need comprehensive guidelines and continuous work on improving the data collection systems.
El Salvador supports the work and agrees with the need for a more comprehensive questionnaire and content review. All member states should share information that is channeled through the ARQ. The reason for the lack of response might be that some member states can’t comply in some requests.
Angela Me: The ARQ has to be a flexible national instrument that enables response and data collection – qualitative and quantitative. The UNODC has the mandate to carry out reviews and the resolutions authorize the UNODC to make sure a relevant, good instrument is maintained so with the help of national experts, we don’t have to do it alone.
Many of you mentioned the need transparent, evidence based, comprehensive processes and this is what we had as an objective. So, before calling for the expert consultation, we thoroughly analyzed the previous responses to and saw issues with different questions and found indicators that are not uniform or answerable for everyone. We wanted to understand the issues, so we opened a very open feedback questionnaire – to member states, civil society and academics – then we prepared documentation for expert consultation.
In regards to the response rate, we considered that it’s not an issue for everyone and so the expert recommendation was to streamline the ARQ, because it is also an issue that it is too big. So we worked on allowing more member states to report even on the small amount of information they have. The interagency issue was also mentioned here, we want to make sure no double reporting is done. You can see in the World Drug Report, some joint estimates are made, we rely on WHO data and do as much as we can to streamline interagency data. A lot of attention also was paid to capacity building and not only the design of the questionnaire. So, on a parallel track, discussions with the EU were conducted to see how we can support countries. To fulfil our roles in light of the 2 resolutions, our commitment is to maintain the process and have better data. We understand you may have the different views on policy in the commission but it’s not a policy discussion, it is a plan of action to be better informed. The UNODC is committed to handle this as a technical issue and we are open for suggestions. We don’t have a draft questionnaire yet but we have input from national experts how to improve current instruments so now we are working on translating it into concrete steps and will present the options to the CND. The experts in the consultation had great geographical diversity and capacities to maintain the commitment to keep the discussion technical and we continue to aim for that.
Pakistan wishes the UNODC remains consistent with their mandates and relevant resolutions. We would like the timeline to be flexible and along that, the commission should be constantly informed. This will enable fresh guidance to feed to the work. During the revision of ARQ, keep in mind that next year is extremely important because of the ministerial meeting. A conclusive discussion can’t take place until we see how the commission guides post 2019 and how the international community organize its work after 2019. So, it there is an extreme importance of keeping this in mind and not conclude a substantial discussion unlit we see what happens in March.
Russia: support for Pakistan’s statement.
Angela Me: There will be no other expert meetings before 2019, so there is room to take all of what has been said into consideration.
India: What exact mechanism is available for member states to provide further feedback? Has data and opinion been collected and processed – if so, what is the outcome?
Angela Me: An other expert consultation will take place with experts that are selected by capitals. We will continue to keep CND updated – in reflection to Russia and Pakistan. More informal briefings are in the pipeline, but we hear your concern and can think of a broader consultation before the next consultation.
Egypt: Need to provide different scenarios to strengthening data collection and not just take one option, but present member states with several options to choose from.
Chair: Thank you Angela. Moving on to 61/10 that was adapted last March. We have collectively working on the plans for the intersessional period. There will be informal consultations during June (7,8,19,24,27). There are still some outstanding and we will resume our informals later today to address these and resume intersessional meeting to adapt the workplan. Moving on to the second agenda point: preparations for the reconvened 61st session of CND.
Preparations for the Reconvened 61st Session of CND
Last December, the CND agreed that the reconvened 61st session will take place 6-7 December 2018. On the 6th there will be joint meetings with the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, during which the agenda item Policy directives to the drug programme of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and strengthening the drug programme and the role of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as its governing body, including administrative, budgetary and strategic management questions will be considered. In additional, we will also deal with the preparations for the reconvened 61st session. We have also been discussing an additional date to the reconvened 61st session, devoted to preparations for the HLMS. If the commission wishes to pursue this on the 5th of December, we need to decide on this before September to give enough time for the Secretariat to prepare for the Commission.
Preparations for the 2019 Ministerial Segment
Chair: Moving on to the third agenda point, preparations for the Ministerial Segment, held during the next session of CND in 2019. In resolution 60/1, we agreed that the segment is open to all state members of the UN and interested stake holders and that it would be held in 2 days in addition to the 62nd session. Dates: 14-15 March HLMS, 18-22 March CND. In the resolution, the Commission agreed to hold a general debate similar to 2009 and 2014. It was also decided that the segment shall include two interactive multi-stakeholder roundtables to be conducted parallel to the general debate. It was also decided that an outline for the way beyond 2019 will be presented at the reconvened 61st session, prior to the 62nd session. The draft work plan for ATOM aims to give ample time for preparations.
Bugaria on behalf of the EU + Norway, former states of Yugosavia: The EU and its Member States would like to highlight the successful outcome of the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem held in 2016 and to stress the important progress that has been achieved in the field of drugs. By calling for a more integrated, evidence-based and balanced drug policy, UNGASS reshaped and broadened global drug policy, through putting an adequate focus on the health side of the drugs problem, including prevention, treatment, and risk and harm reduction, on vulnerable members of society, and also on the link to Human Rights and the relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whilst also reaffirming the unwavering commitment to supply reduction and related measures. Therefore, we consider the UNGASS Outcome Document as a milestone and a progressive step forward in the discussions on international drug policy.
The 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action were adopted almost 10 years ago. While recognizing the value of knowing how much have been advanced in the 2009 objectives, we have to recognize also that practice (including best practices), knowledge and the threats of drugs have evolved since then. The UNGASS Outcome Document, adopted in 2016, represents the latest global consensus in drug policies and underscores the UN drug conventions as the corner stone of the international drug control system.
The EU and its Member States would also like to note that the UNGASS outcome document incorporates all major topics outlined in the 2009 Political Declaration (notably on supply reduction: with the mention of an effective law enforcement cooperation, the necessity to counter money laundering and promote judicial cooperation). It also recognizes that the drugs challenge has evolved over time and it complements the Political Declaration regarding new challenges such as new psychoactive substances and the use of the Internet in relation to drug-related activities. Also, the UNGASS outcome document builds on the Political Declaration regarding issues which have not been included before but have to be included in order to more appropriately reflect the complexity of current drugs challenges and the comprehensiveness of drug policy responses. Through implementing the UNGASS outcome document, we are effectively implementing the provisions set out in the Political Declaration, as well as addressing the general challenges and priorities for action identified in the Joint Ministerial Statement adopted at the high-level review in March 2014. As such, the EU and its Member States firmly believe that the 2019 ministerial segment of the 62nd CND should reaffirm the UNGASS recommendations highlighted in the Outcome Document. In our opinion, there is no need to negotiate another major new policy document.
The European Union and its Member States strongly supports the concrete implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Document in order, not only to continue our efforts and international cooperation on drug supply reductions, but also to strengthen the public health and human rights dimension of the world drug problem. The seven thematic areas laid down in the UNGASS Outcome Document fully correspond to the need for an integrated, evidence-based, balanced and outreaching approach to drug policy. The efforts of the international community up to and beyond 2019 should be focused on their practical implementation through the broad number of operational recommendations contained therein. While recognizing the need for a comprehensive, balanced and outreaching approach to drug policy and our commitment to the 2009 Political Declaration and its Plan of Action, and striving to advance implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Document, the EU and its Member States would like to emphasize five of the many factors that can ensure success for this endeavour.
First, the EU fully supports the principal role of the CND and UNODC as the policymaking body and leading entity for addressing and countering the world drug problem, however it is important for the Commission and UNODC to further engage with other relevant UN entities and, within their mandates, jointly develop activities and strategies promoting implementation, including in designing and implementing integrated, evidence-based and balanced national drug strategies, policies and cooperation programmes. In this regard we would like to underline the role of WHO as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work, including public health aspects of drug policy, and we would also welcome further discussions on the issue of closer UNODC cooperation with other relevant UN entities such as UNDP, UNAIDS, OHCHR and with Interpol, including the question of proper means for an effective implementation. Second, it is important to bring the implementation of the UNGASS Outcome Recommendations in line with the relevant goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The efforts to achieve the relevant Sustainable Developments Goals and to effectively address the world drug problem complement and reinforce each other. Third, the 2019 global drug policy review should be cost-effective and transparent. It must include all relevant UN agencies under the auspices of UNODC and CND and involve civil society and the scientific community. Fourth, we should not forget the crucial role of civil society in the elaboration and implementation of drug policies at the local, national and international level. Without their insightful input, we would not have enough information on daily life with drug use. Civil society should be actively engaged in the process leading towards the 2019 ministerial segment of the 62nd through the Civil Society Taskforce, and should also be invited to meaningfully participate in the Ministerial Segment of the 62nd CND session, including in its preparation. Among other measures to actively engage civil society in this event, we support the Civil Society Taskforce intention to organise a civil society hearing in the margins of the 62nd CND session, which would report to the ministerial segment on the outcome of the Forum. Finally, collecting relevant and reliable data is instrumental to get a better overview of the drug situation worldwide, reflected in the World Drug Report, and to provide relevant and evidencebased response to the world drug phenomenon. We encourage [and support] all possibilities to strengthen and streamline existing data collection and analysis tools at the international, regional and national level mindful of the importance of good and effective inter-agency cooperation.
We welcome the ongoing work on the improvement of the quality and the effectiveness of the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ). In order to ensure the success of this process, we propose that efforts focus in two main areas in particular:
- the ARQ should be updated to enable reporting on the new aspects of the drugs policy introduced by the UNGASS Outcome Document;
- the reporting rate to the questionnaire should be substantially enhanced by streamlining the questionnaire, where possible by resorting to already existing mechanisms, and by also investing in targeted capacity building to be able to increase compliance where limited capacity exist in order to get a better overview of the world drug problem.
Madam Chair, The EU and its Member States consider the UNGASS Outcome Document as the pivotal reference document in the field of drugs, representing the latest global consensus. It takes into account the broad developments and emerging threats since the adoption in 2009 of the Political Declaration and its Plan of Action. The UNGASS Outcome Document builds upon the commitments made 10 years ago, while retaining what has been achieved so far. Therefore, our collective efforts should be fully invested in the implementation of the UNGASS commitments. With regard to our ongoing preparations for the second semester of this 61st CND, we strongly support the proposed work plan to hold thematic intersessional meetings in Vienna to discuss the implementation of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action and the operational recommendations of the UNGASS 2016 outcome document, based on the UNGASS chapters. We commend the Chair and her team for their relentless efforts in finding a comfort zone for all delegations to build our future work on, and we thank all for the constructive spirit that was experienced last week. We reiterate our support to the Chair and remain committed to concluding our discussions on the work plan successfully.
Norway’s position is fully in line with that of the EU. The latest World Drug Report presents a discouraging picture in terms of the lack of achievements in almost every aspect and Norway encourages for the commission to take the way forward seriously. We need a critical review of existing goals and approaches that are more likely to tackle the problem. The UNGASS outcome document was a good step in the direction. It implements the 2009 plan’s focuses and recognises the important manifold issues. Norwegian policies have been implemented accordingly. We are looking forward to achieve stronger language on severely critical issues for more efficient policy. This is not the time for looking back and repeating the same steps that haven’t proved to work. The future is ahead of us and not behind so that is where we should be focusing our attention in line with the 2030 SDGs.
Pakistan: The 60/1 resolution is a good guidance for work, a meaningful work plan, and aims to proceed in a manner that helps take stock of the targets of 2009 while learning from the experiences. We should not forget past commitments and should anchor future approaches in evidence, collective experiences and lessons learned.
Secretariat: Procedurally, 62nd session dates will be formally agreed upon during the reconvened session, we will make sure that we have the opportunity to make arrangements. We have a draft now to start preparations.
Switzerland, while not being a member of the EU, fully align themselves to their statements and echo it in its entirety. The UNGASS outcome document is a pivotal reference document and reflects recent global consensus that puts emphasis on health and human rights. In order to consolidate this, we need further efforts in line with the three pillars by the UN and SDGs. We have no need for new documents as we are still implementing the previous recommendations. CND and the Secretariat should play a leading role in the preparations for 2019 and progress in the light of the targets that were set out in 2009, but their mandate also includes the inclusion of the scientific community, other UN entities and CSOs. It should also secure equal rights to all member states and we urge organization-wide strategies. Switzerland hopes and helps the finalization of the workplan today.
Russia: With the EU statement, our colleagues attempt to diminish the importance of the 2009 document, we don’t favor selective approach to basic documents that guide our activities. We call for adequate attention to both 2009 and 2016 documents. That is the only way ahead!
Contribution to the work of ECOSOC
Chair: Next agenda point is, Contribution to the work of the ECOSOC. The meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development in 2018 convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council will be held from Monday, 9 July, to Wednesday, 18 July 2018; including the three-day ministerial meeting of the forum from Monday, 16 July, to Wednesday, 18 July 2018. The theme will be “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”. The commission’s input has been submitted to the forum and chair will report on the 2nd July in New York. At the meeting, the CND report of 61st will be considered and the provisional agenda for the 62nd session will be approved. There will be a panel discussion with other chairs of functional commission including CCPJ, Staustics, etc. and contribution to SDGs in cross-cutting issues will be addressed.
Canada would like to express its sincere appreciation for your efforts to guide us towards consensus on a work plan for the Commission’s preparations for the Ministerial segment in 2019. However, I take the floor today to discuss a different issue. Last week (on June 21), Canada’s legislation to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis received Royal Assent. While the Cannabis Act is now law, it will only take effect on October 17, 2018, in order to give the provinces and territories in Canada time to prepare. At that time, individuals in Canada who are 18 years of age or older will be legally able to purchase, possess and consume limited amounts of cannabis, and authorized entities will be able to cultivate, produce, distribute and sell cannabis legally, under license. We recognize that the topic of cannabis legalization is a policy issue that is of great interest to the Commission and of concern to some States Parties to the drug Conventions. We are also conscious that it is an issue of concern to the International Narcotics Control Board and to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, as indicated by statements released on June 21. As you know, Canada has briefed the CND and the International Narcotics Control Board on our cannabis policy on several occasions in recent years and, I welcome the opportunity to do so again today.
Canada’s new Cannabis Act will: o restrict youth access to cannabis to protect young people from promotion or enticements to use cannabis o deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those breaking the law, especially those who import or export cannabis, or provide cannabis to youth o protect public health through strict product safety and quality requirements o reduce the burden on the criminal justice system o provide for the legal production of cannabis to reduce illegal activities o allow adults to possess and access regulated, quality controlled legal cannabis; and o enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis Four additional points about the content of the Act: 1. The Cannabis Act, for the first time, makes it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and creates significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabisrelated offences. 2. The Act contains strict and specific restrictions on packaging and labeling including strict requirements that packaging be child resistant and tamper evident. 3. The illegal movement of cannabis and cannabis products across international borders will remain a serious criminal offence as it is today. 4. Driving while impaired by cannabis or any other drug is, and will remain, a serious criminal offence. Law enforcement officers across Canada are trained to detect drug-impaired drivers. Madame Chair, having briefly described our new law, let me review some of the reasons why Canada has taken this approach. First, I want to be clear that Canada is undertaking this policy change to better protect the health and safety of Canadians, especially Canadian youth. The reality is that, in Canada at least, our former approach simply did not work. Despite nearly a century of strict criminal prohibition of cannabis, supported by substantial law enforcement resources, cannabis use has become widespread across Canada today and the drug is easily available to Canadian youth and adults alike. In fact, despite prohibition and the threat of criminal sanctions, the rates of cannabis use among Canadian youth are among the highest in the world. One in five Canadian youth aged 15-19, and one in three young adults aged 20-24, report having used cannabis in the past year.
This is the public health and safety problem Canada currently confronts. We are well aware that the health risks associated with cannabis use are particularly acute in young users, and these high rates of use are therefore of concern from a public health perspective. By contrast, we have seen the percentage of youth who use tobacco, which has been available for legal purchase in Canada for decades, drop from 27% in 1985 to 10% in 2015, due to a successful combination of strict regulation and sustained public education about its risks. This is a public health success story, and we have applied these lessons to inform our approach to the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis. Public education and awareness are fundamental to achieving our public health and safety objectives. For this reason, the Government of Canada has made significant investments to ensure that Canadians have access to information to understand the health and safety risks of cannabis use. The total planned investment in cannabis public education, awareness and surveillance is more than $100 million. Since spring 2017, our health ministry has targeted an ongoing public education campaign at parents and youth, using advertising, social media, web content, and articles aimed at helping Canadians learn the facts about cannabis, and also supporting parents to talk with their teens about cannabis use and health effects. Additionally, an evidence-based, public health approach is being taken with respect to the requirements for packaging and labelling of cannabis products to minimize its appeal to children and youth; protect against accidental consumption; and provide consumers with information they need to make informed decisions before using cannabis, including the potential risks and harms of cannabis use. The Cannabis Act includes specific restrictions on packaging and labelling of cannabis products: The packaging and labelling must not appeal to youth. Plain packaging and labelling will be required for all cannabis products. Cannabis packaging must be child-resistant and tamper-evident. These measures will be complemented by the ongoing public education campaign I mentioned a moment ago to educate Canadians, particularly youth and young adults, about health and safety facts about cannabis.
Madame Chair, our Government recognizes that our new approach will result in Canada being in contravention of certain obligations related to cannabis under the UN drug conventions. I want to emphasize that Canada has not taken this decision lightly. We wish to avoid doing any harm to the Conventions, though we recognize the concerns of some delegations that we nevertheless risk doing so, despite our best intentions. Based on extensive public consultations and the available scientific evidence as well as the experiences of other States, we have concluded that legalization and strict regulation is the best framework for Canada to respond to our domestic public health and safety challenges associated with cannabis. I want to be clear that this is strictly a domestic policy decision, designed to respond to current challenges in Canada. We do not advocate cannabis legalization as a solution for others, and we do not intend to legalize any other scheduled drugs. We have been asked whether decriminalizing cannabis, which could have kept us within the bounds of the Conventions, might have been a good alternative to legalization. It is our view that Canada’s challenges could not be solved by decriminalization alone, since it would preserve the illicit market that currently sells cannabis, including to our youth, and provides organized criminal groups with proceeds estimated at about $7 billion a year. CND members will recognize that that level of criminal activity carries with it a host of other social risks. These risks are not acceptable to the Government of Canada. Our experience with medical cannabis, which has been available in Canada for over a decade, has demonstrated that a well-regulated, licensed Canadian industry can produce cannabis products under secure conditions that are of high quality and meet our Government’s rigorous safety standards. In short, we believe we have an opportunity to reduce the role played by the thriving illicit market, with all its associated risks to public health and safety, in favour of a strictly regulated one that, when enforced by appropriate penalties for violations, will enable us to better meet our challenges.
Madame Chair, we know that the success of this policy change will depend upon whether it meets the goals of better restricting youth access to cannabis and displacing organized crime. Our Government is committed to measuring the health and social impacts of our cannabis policies and Canada has, moreover, offered to share outcome data with other CND members. I would like to reiterate an important point: Canada remains a strong supporter of the international drug control system, as established by the three Conventions. We are committed to finding solutions that promote the health and safety of Canadians, while maintaining the international drug control framework as the foundation for international collaboration on drug policy. We recognize that our treaty partners are pursuing different policy approaches to cannabis, and we do not intend for our system to negatively impact their efforts. Thus, I also want to emphasize that the illegal movement of cannabis and cannabis products across our borders will remain a serious criminal offence under Canadian law. Canadian law enforcement agencies will continue to work with their international partners to combat drug trafficking. In addition, the Government is establishing a Cannabis Tracking System with the purpose of tracking highlevel movements of cannabis throughout the supply chain to help prevent diversion of cannabis – that is, the movement of both legal cannabis to the illegal market and illegal cannabis to the legal market. Any person authorized to conduct activities with cannabis will be required to report into the Cannabis Tracking System. We will continue to work in the CND and with our international partners to advance the objectives of the international drug control framework, including through the exchange of information and intelligence on new and emerging drug threats, sharing expertise on approaches to mitigate the harms of problematic substance use, and supporting capacity-building to combat international drug trafficking. While our domestic law on cannabis has changed, Canada’s commitment to international cooperation to counter and address the world drug problem has not changed in any way. I hope that this short briefing on Canada’s new Cannabis Act has been of interest to the Commission, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue on this issue.
Russia: We would like to draw your attention to the dramatic developments in the international drug control policy related to the recent measures taken by the Canadian authorities. Last week the Parliament of Canada adopted by majority vote the legislation on marijuana legalisation. Upon completing final procedures this legal initiative is due to come into force quite soon. When implemented this undertaking will tangibly breach the UN drug control conventions, which as we all know limit the production and use of drugs exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. It is worth recalling that the UN Secretary General’s Commentary of 1973 highlighted this basic principle as one of the most important achievements of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.Today the “initiative” of the Canadian side brings this achievement under question. In this regard the International Narcotics Control Board, which is mandated to monitor the compliance of States with their legal drug control obligations, forwarded to the Canadian parliamentarians in April this year a written brief with its assessment of the developments. Then the Board underlined that the bill was incompatible with the treaty obligations which Canada is bound to. The INCB believes that the adoption of the legislation constitutes a fundamental breach of those international treaty provisions that are “absolute and unequivocal in nature”. In its latest statement on this subject dated the 21stJune the Board used even more precise and definitive language: legalization of cannabis constitutes a violation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and undermines the international legal drug control framework. It is worth mentioning in this context that the international community, including Canada, unanimously reaffirmed in the outcome document of the 2016 2 UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem that the UN conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 constitute “the cornerstone of the international drug control system”.
The intention of the Canadian authorities to legalize so-called recreational cannabis threatens to shake this cornerstone. It is regrettable that the INCB warnings were totally ignored in Canada. The process of cannabis legalization in Canada is proceeding at full speed. What is more, Canadian authorities frankly acknowledge that the draft law contradicts the UN conventions, but consider it to be admissible. Advocates of the so-called recreational marijuana legalization try to validate their position by Paragraph 1 of the Preamble of the Single Convention of 1961 and argue that this measure will contribute to protecting the health and welfare of people. This argument is completely false and means a switch of the notions. It is for the sake of safeguarding the health and welfare of humankind that the conventional norms were adopted. As for the Canadian initiative, it would by the very meaning of the conventions be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the humanity. This was reconfirmed by the INCB once again in its statement of the 21st of June. Apparently, it is assumed in Ottawa that this serious violation of the drug control conventions will pass unnoticed by other States Parties to these international treaties. This assumption is absolutely wrong. We need to remind our Canadian counterparts that the above-mentioned conventions constitute the legacy of the entire international community. As the INCB rightly pointed out they are founded upon the principle of common and shared responsibility of their States Parties. Ottawa has no right to make unilateral decisions, which are meant to impact the integrity of the international drug control conventions, and promote a selective approach to their implementation, thus opening the Pandora’s box. If other countries choose to follow the path taken by Canada we will see the international legal drug control regime undergoing deep erosion and potentially being destroyed.
This is totally unacceptable. The intention of the Canadian authorities to legalize drugs is all the more defiant bearing in mind that this country is currently a member of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. A CND Member State, which by virtue of this status should safeguard the strict adherence to the conventions, is in fact destroying them from inside. We strongly believe that this development, if the new bill enters into force, must become a subject of a thorough scrutiny by our Commission, including during the forthcoming ministerial review of the global drug control situation in 2019. We would like to use this opportunity to express our full support to the strong stance of the INCB that is scrupulous in carrying out its mandate. We would like to underline the importance of responsible and comprehensive instead of selective implementation of the UN conventions by all their parties.
One last point. The Canadian authorities often advocate for a rules-based world order. Regrettably in the drug control matters they are in effect going in the opposite direction by undermining the basic rules, which are of a legally binding nature. We would like to recall once again that in accordance with Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties a party to an international treaty must perform its obligations in good faith (pacta sunt servanda). Moreover Article 27 of the same Vienna convention states that “a party cannot invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty”. We call upon our Canadian counterparts to return to the fold of the international law and bring their policy in line with the principles and goals that they declare. As we understand it, the new law is supposed to become operational on 17th October. That means that Canada still has sufficient period of time to reconsider its current policy and to refrain from a gross violation of international law, which may have very destructive implications. We hope that a responsible approach will finally prevail in Ottawa.
USA thanks Canada for the comprehsive explanation and encourages CND members to not single out member states and politicize treaty compliance – we consider it unproductive and distracting from serious serious challenges, such as improving approach to NPS that contribute to 1000s of deaths worldwide. It is up to state parties to interpret convetions and implement them in consultations with the INCB and its members. The USA suggests a brief on national developments during a standalone event outside of CND.
Japan’s perspective is that control conventions are the cornerstones of the international legal frame and in addressing the world drug problem. CND had been aiming at a united response so it is of cruicial importace that each state party implements the conventions in line with the work of INCB.
Kyrgyzstan: In accordance with the 3 conventions, it is our common obligation to limit activities related to drugs. Countries should assure that these activities are punished. We regret the decision of the Canadian government as it undermines the national legal framework of drug control. Despite the fact that Canada is a party to all 3 conventions, they initiated a process that is in breach of them. The free sale of marijuana will lead to drug dependence among young adults and INCB noted that legalization is in contrary to the conventions.
Singapore: INCB and UNODC both issued a statement on the 21st of June to express their concern over the decision of legalization of cannabis for non medical use. This contravenes with the conventions and undermines the legal framework and world order. The 3 conventions are cornerstones and full compliance has been reiterated during recent meetings, joint action plans, etc. All member states reaffirmed collective determination in 2016 and while countries have freedom to legislate in a way that best suit national environments, it has to be within the framework. Some texts are open to interpretation but legalization of recreational use is not one of those. This is a delibareate breach of the conventions and undermines the UN system. We urge member states to comply to our agreements and the international community to uphold the system.
New Zealand: Canada recognizes the availability of illicit cannabis and aimed to distrupt the black market. Their decision has not been taken lightly and they have been consulting for several decades. Our perspective is that Canada is a responsible contributor to the drug control framework and we support a health focus to drugs and are interested to hear about alternative approaches.
Tajikistan: There are serious risks with the non medical use: serious threat to our societies, expecially regarding smuggling of drugs originated from Tajikistan. We are deeply concerned by the circulation of illegal substances and we ratified the conventions with transnational crimes taken into account. We adopted a national strategy 2013-2020 and it is regretfull that some member states adapt laws that deliberately contradict these efforts. Canada’s decision to legalize cannabis is highly alarming, may impair the international work and carry serious national consequences. We remain, more than ever, committed to the conventions and call on the CND to consider this issue seriously.
Netherlands thanks the through brief of Canada. Providing context is essential to fulfil our mandate. We are confident that Canace will continue to monitor the effectiveness of new policies and report on it. With ongoing developments, member states may feel the need to discuss new realities and we stand ready for an open debate. It is a sensitive matter and such debates have key elements: in the Vienna spirit, we don’t support member states being singled out, it is not constructive and it is not useful to focus on treaty compliance. We attach importance to evidence based and well prepares discussions that do not happen in the expense of other important elemtns including human rights issues, access to medicine, law enforcement, etc.
Pakistan: This is a standing item, nothing unusual to discuss this. The conventions are the cornerstones of our work and essential to counter the world drug problem. There were several resolutions where we reiterated the central role of conventions. We have serious concerns in some regions regarding legalization of non medical use. It might impede the effects of our efforts to counter the world drug problem. We urge the commission and INCB to play an active role within their respective mandates to address this.
Syrian Arab Republic shares the concern regarding the violation of the treaties and the collective efforts of 2009. The UNODC and ICNB stated how Canada’s decision is contravening and undermines the status quo. National action should be taken in line with the 3 treaties and member states should be comprehensively abiding to the treaties, no exceptions. We call on Canada to consider the reprecussions of their noncompliance.
Kazakhstan is deeply concerned about cannabis for recreational use. All member states should actively support the implementation of the 3 conventions and only allow scientific and medical use. We also highly support the INCB.
China shares concerns, fully supports UNODC, INCB and their June 21st statement made it clear that this decision is in breach of the conventions that are the cornerstones of the international drug policy framework. According to the latest data, with the decrease in problematic drug is in China, drug control measures are effective and China fears the negative rippel effects of Canada’s decision across the World. China urges all member states to act responsibly, in coherence with international agreements and deeply regrets this decision.
Iran regrets Canada’s decision and warns that domestic legislation should be in line with all the treaties. Any legislative measure allowing the non medical or scientific use of cannabus is incompetible with the treaties and pose serious threat to the international. This decison is against recent consensus in 2016 where the commission unanimously underscored the importance of the treaties. It might carry sersious reprecussions on other states and so this debate is important and should not be labelled as politically motivated.
Belarus: Nonmedical nonscientific use is incompatible with the conventions on which the international community relies on.
Algeria is concerned with the trend of recreational use. Canada’s decision is not consistent with the spirits of the internationally agreed framework. The conventions are the cornerstones of the international drug control system.
Malaysia agrees that the conventions are the cornerstones of the international drug control system and allowing other than medical and scientific use are clear violations. Malaysia calls all member states to adhere to the conventions.
Germany associates with the Dutch statement. Great interest in INCB and not against the debate on legalization of Cannabis but we don not consider this spontaneous peer, review finger-pointing to member states, in line with the Vienna spirit that is focused on cooperation.
France understands the differences in domestic dialogues and is against nonmedical use. Nevertheless, this forum should not serve to single out member states – it is not in line with the Vienna spirit.
Namibia is concerned with the decision of Canada and calls on member states to respect the rules set out by the conventions that are the cornerstones of the international drug control system.
Armenia fully shares Russia’s position.
Canada thanks the comments and is conscious of the strong positions and diverse national circumstances on policies. Canada will report home and is eager to engage more as they always respected the views of colleagues and continoue to do so. Such discussion needs to be carefully prepared for and needs active participation on topics that go beyond the subject explored today.
Russia welcomes the intention of reporting accurately on this discussion, but thinks Canada does not necessarily have a comprehensive understating of the international situation. A number of Canadian senators were concerned with the prospective international response to which the minister’s response was “don’t worry, they will digest everything”. Today’s discussion shwos this might not be entirely correct, which Russia finds very good. Russa can’t believe New Zealand supports the violation of international rules. Russia doesn’t think what is happening is fingerpointing as Canada is singling itself out by refusing to comply. The drug control regime will go into erosion if delegations accept excuses for not complying.
Chair: The work plan was accepted on the 26th of June.