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Nation of Malta: International law allows legalization

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After Uruguay and Canada legalized the adult use and trade of cannabis, Malta became the third sovereign State and the first member of the European Union to legalize cannabis for non-medical purposes, at the end of 2021. These three nations are all parties of the country. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961the fundamental UN treaty on cannabis hemp in international law that created the world war on drugs.

A position paper published by the International Narcotics Control Board, the agency tasked with monitoring certain aspects of the Convention, sought to block the reforms. The INCP stated that “the legalization and regulation of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes, as provided for in Bill C-45, cannot be reconciled with Canada’s international obligations under Article 4(c) of the Single Convention of 1961”.

So when Canada legalized adult use, it openly stated that Bill C-45 “contradicted certain obligations relating to cannabis under the three UN drug conventions.” The UN has no enforcement mechanism to force nations to comply with these treaties.

Science, goal of legalizing cannabis

The language of the treaty under discussion, Article 4(c), states: “Parties shall take such legislative and administrative measures as may be necessary. […] subject to the provisions of this Convention, to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution, trade, use and possession of drugs.

Malta’s legalization law uses language in the very opening segment that is strikingly similar to Article 2(9) of the Single Convention in defining the purpose of national legislation:

“It will be the function of the Authority [on the Responsible Use of Cannabis] to regulate the use of cannabis for purposes other than medical or scientific purposes”, and adds, “to implement the reduction of harm from the use of cannabis”. The Authority is also in charge of “monitoring the use of cannabis in Malta, except for use for medical or scientific purposes”.

– Maltese Bill No. 241, Article 3 (p. C 6487)

In other words, Malta asserts that there is indeed a complete scientific purpose for the legalization of adults – to mitigate, through the legalization process, the harm caused by the ban and to allow scientists and researchers free access and open to the necessary data that need to be monitored. this situation.


For a deeper dive into the issue and international approaches to legalization, see Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli’s report, High Compliance: UN Treaties “Reviewing The Reviewers”

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