Published: May 2017

Recreational Cannabis Regulation & International Law: Scenarios for States Parties to the UN Drug Conventions

This publication is also available in Spanish & Portuguese.

This policy brief from the ICSDP and the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto provides guidance to national governments seeking to align domestic legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis markets with their international legal obligations. The policy brief employs a transformative scenario planning (TSP) process to identify potential policy scenarios which were refined based on input from key informants including senior Canadian government policymakers. Importantly, the TSP process does not predict the likelihood or appropriateness of each scenario but instead articulates the policy space available to governments considering their options. Using Canada as a primary case, the policy brief outlines four scenarios for how states party to the UN drug treaties could respond to questions of compliance while pursuing domestic cannabis policies that appear in breach of those treaties, including treaty amendment, treaty withdrawal and re-accession, a legal argument for compatibility, and principled non-compliance with the treaties.