Russia cites the UN drug watchdog to blast Canada's legislation legalizing recreational use of cannabis. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Russia cites UN body to blast Canada’s cannabis legalization

Opponents of the Trudeau government’s plan to legalize marijuana in Canada are getting some unexpected if, perhaps, unwelcome support from the Russian government.

In an official statement published by the Russian ministry of foreign affairs on Thursday, a senior Russian diplomat argued the Liberal government’s Cannabis Act, which comes into force on Oct. 17, contravenes Canada’s international treaty obligations.

“When implemented this undertaking will tangibly breach the UN drug control conventions, which as we all know limit the production and use of drugs exclusively to medical and scientific purposes,” said in a statement Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna.

Ulyanov said Canada’s action will not go unnoticed by the international community and pointed to reaction by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), mandated to monitor the compliance of states with their legal drug control obligations.

Undermining international drug control network

A general view of cannabis plants are shown in a grow room at Up Cannabis Inc., Newstrike Resources??? marijuana greenhouses, in Brantford, Ont. on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In a statement released last Thursday, INCB said that the “legalization and regulation of cannabis by Canada for non-medical purposes cannot be reconciled with the country’s international obligations as a State Party to the drug control conventions.”

The INCB said that the legalization of recreational use of marijuana “is in violation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and undermines the international legal drug control framework and respect for the rules-based international order.”

“INCB is very concerned about the public health situation in Canada which will result from the Government’s decision to legalize the non-medical use of cannabis,” INCB president Viroj Sumyai said.

Protecting health and safety of Canadians

A man protests Canada’s laws against marijuana during a 4/20 demo on Parliament Hill. The Cannabis Act legalising recreational use of cannabis enters into force on Oct. 17, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Adam Austen, press secretary of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a priority for the Liberal government.

“That is why we are taking a careful, regulatory approach to cannabis legalization,” Austen said in an emailed statement to Radio Canada International.

“We are committed to finding solutions that promote the health and safety of Canadians, while maintaining the international drug control framework as the foundation for international collaboration.”

Ulyanov said Canada’s rationale for pot legalization flips the very basis of international efforts to regulate narcotics on its head.

“It is for the sake of safeguarding the health and welfare of humankind that the conventional norms were adopted,” Ulyanov said. “As for the Canadian initiative, it would by the very meaning of the conventions be detrimental to the health and well-being of the humanity.”

Canada will remain in full compliance with the overarching goal of the conventions, which is protecting the health and safety of citizens, Austen said.

“In March 2017, after our cannabis legislation was tabled, Canada was re-elected to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in a contested election, demonstrating that the vast majority of countries value Canada’s continued contribution to the drug control framework,” Austen said.

“Canada’s commitment to international cooperation to counter and address important international drug issues, such as trafficking, remains as firm as ever.”‎

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