UNGASS Drug Reform Highlights - Paradise SeedsSmall steps forward in the UN debate on drugs, while cannabis users around the world take to the streets to argue for liberalization...

Cannabis Debate Shifts From the UN to the Street

It has been a busy couple of months for the cannabis legalization debate and it’s interesting to view it from two perspectives – from the political top and the street level bottom.

News from UNGASS - Paradise SeedsAt the top we had UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world Drug Problem) in April, featuring politicians - in suits and ties- from around the world, who gathered in New York to debate changes to international drug policy. Meanwhile, at the bottom we had massive popular demonstrations - by people not wearing suits and ties - for 420 gatherings and Million Marijuana Marches in cities all around the world.

UNGASS Drug Reform Highlights

Overall, there was not much to cheer about from UNGASS (for more details check out our April article), where a fledgling reform movement came up against a wall of anti-drug hardliners, which included Russia, Iran and Singapore. However, despite the lack of a ‘breakthrough moment’, a radical shift in the way the world deals with drugs, some commentators have observed that small changes will prove to be significant in the long term.

News from UNGASS - Paradise SeedsThese include an agreement to meet again in 2019 and a subtle change of language that brought ‘harm reduction’ into a debate that had before now been framed by an emphasis on ‘enforcement’. There was also the acknowledgement of flexibility in approach to how countries proceed when it comes to the UN’s internationally binding treaties. Two illustrations (and highlights of UNGASS 2016 for the pro-cannabis movement) of this flexibility came in the form of announcements from Canada and Mexico which have chosen a path that deviates from the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The Canadian government took the opportunity to confirm all the rumors and announce it will legalize cannabis in 2017. The Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced plans for reforms that would legalize medical cannabis research and use and remove penalties for those caught in possession of less than 28 grams. So small steps at UNGASS 2016 but, as the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said; The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Time to start planning for the next session in 2019…

Million Marijuana Marchers Out in Force

While the career politicians were discussing the future of drug policy, the annual Million Marijuana March (AKA Global Marijuana March or Global Cannabis March) last month brought a clear indication of how hard line politicians are increasingly out of step with public opinion as protesters came onto the streets in cities around the world.

MMM Argentina 2014 - Paradise SeedsThe MMM movement began in 1999 and marches have been held in over 85 countries over the years. There were big events across the USA and Canada, South America, Europe and also in other parts of the world including a first rally for the Indian city of Bengaluru. One of the biggest protests took place in Argentina, where over 150,000 people marched through Buenos Aires demanding an end to the criminalization of users and those who grow. The march, one of 19 across the country, was led by the families of children with epilepsy for which cannabis is changing lives.

Cannabis Legalization Debate Gathers Momentum…

If there is anything to be learnt from the past two months it is that, at both ends of the spectrum, politicians and people are increasingly calling for change. Right now they may be in the minority, but the voices are growing louder with every year that passes… Surely there will come a time in the future when policy makers will be forced to admit that, for a brief period of history, they got it wrong about the noble cannabis plant...