Anthony Wile Cannabis Analyst says ‘History on Trudeau’s Side’

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( — January 12, 2016) — Recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received a grim warning regarding one of his most popular campaign promises – his plan to legalize adult possession, cultivation and use of cannabis.

Trudeau was cautioned this week in a briefing note that what he thought was a practical domestic matter was actually fraught with complex international treaty obligations.

He’s already dealing with a more volatile domestic environment regarding cannabis legislation than he might have expected. Each province, in fact, is presenting its own special problems.

And now here’s another series of hurdles.

Canada is a signatory to three international treaties that Trudeau must navigate. Each of them proclaims that even the possession, let alone the production, of cannabis is a criminal offense.

According to the briefing note prepared for Trudeau and obtained by The Canadian Press via the Access to Information Act, Canada must balance two seemingly incompatible issues: One is Trudeau’s determination to legalize marijuana; the other is to somehow conform to treaties that criminalize it.

“It does sound daunting,” noted Anthony Wile, chief investment strategist with High Alert Investment Management, “but there is so much momentum for change that I’m sure Trudeau will find a way to make it happen. Cannabis will be fully legal in Canada.”

According to the briefing note, Trudeau will need to amend Canada’s “participation” as regards three treaties:

  • The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, 
  • The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and
  • The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988. 

It sounds challenging, but more and more, public and political opinion seem to support Trudeau’s intentions. Numerous nations are signaling that their stances on cannabis criminalization are changing.

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and Jamaica recently joined the list of countries that have decriminalized marijuana. Uruguay legalized marijuana for adults in 2013, and in the United States, despite heavy opposition at the federal level where it remains illegal, four states and the District of Colombia as well as Guam, a U.S. territory, have already legalized cannabis, with more jurisdictions expected to do so in upcoming elections.

Since 2009, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has been calling for a change in the world’s approach to drug use by shifting from a criminalization emphasis to a public health approach. Commissioners include such influential leaders as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former presidents and prime ministers of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Poland, Portugal, and Greece, business mogul Richard Branson, and even familiar US names like George Schultz and Paul Volcker.

Just three months from now, representatives from around the world will meet under the auspices of the UN in a special session to consider how best to deal with the global drug problem at UNGASS 2016. Originally scheduled for 2019, the special session was pushed forward at the insistence of leadership from countries arguably most negatively impacted by current treaties, including the presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay.

There is considerable sentiment for decriminalization and legalization around the world. UNGASS 2016 should consolidate that sentiment and help lead the way to a new and more positive chapter in the world’s drug wars, whether by writing an entirely new global treaty to replace the treaties mentioned above or by liberally amending existing narcotics treaties.

If, indeed, UNGASS 2016 results in a global agreement on legalization of marijuana, which appears likely, that should have a powerful impact on Trudeau’s ability to make good on his campaign promise. He would no longer have to make a convincing argument that legalization reduces drug abuse, as shifting global attitudes would surely ease the way for such an argument.

Each of the existing treaties allow for the statements of “reservations” by individual signers – as do all treaties – and the Trudeau administration would have to make a forceful case for benefits of legalization to make Canada’s reservations credible.

However, Trudeau’s Liberals intend to back up words with action. The plan is to do away with criminalization in favor of legalization leavened with significant penalties for those who misuse cannabis. That would include providing marijuana to minors or driving under the influence.

“These treaties have constrained individual nations’ efforts to take a public health approach to the drug problem,” Anthony Wile concluded, “but the momentum has obviously shifted. People don’t talk about criminalization anymore. They usually discuss decriminalization or outright legalization now, from the perspective of utilizing educational and public health initiatives to minimize negative impacts of drug use.”

Anthony Wile cites evidence that numerous additional US states are expected to change policy on adult marijuana possession and use this year, in addition to those in the process of legalizing medicinal marijuana, which will add further momentum to Trudeau’s initiative.

“Negative reports regarding this initiative are highly exaggerated,” Wile said. “Trudeau will win this fight. The cannabis industry is whitening around the world and history is on the prime minister’s side.”