Eliminating Pot Penalties Doesn’t Violate International Treaties, Study Says

Governments may abolish criminal penalties for pot possession and other drug crimes without breaching international treaty obligations, according to a legal study published this week by a London think-tank.
“For many years a major impediment to drug reform has been the belief that UN [United Nations] conventions restrict any change,” said Roger Howard, chief executive of DrugScope, which published the study. “This study dispels the myth that [governments] are tied rigidly by the UN conventions, and shows we have considerable flexibility within them to radically modernize our drug laws.”
The study, entitled “European Drug Laws: the Room for Maneuver,” examines varying drug policies of six European Union (EU) nations: France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Authors found that although each conforms to UN drug conventions, several governments have successfully eliminated jail sentences for drug possession and small-scale supply. They concluded that there exist no provisions in the conventions requiring nations to use criminal laws exclusively to control personal drug possession.
Instead, the study’s authors recommended that governments would be better off sanctioning drug users with civil fines rather than criminal arrest and imprisonment. Such policies have already been implemented in Italy, Portugal and Spain.
“Eleven U.S. states and numerous municipalities have already decriminalized small amounts of marijuana,” explained NORML Foundation Legal Director Donna Shea. “National decriminalization of marijuana would not be a violation of the UN conventions.”
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Donna Shea of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. Copies of the study are available at: http://www.drugscope.org.uk.