William R. Brownfield, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, speaks during a press conference at the presidential residence in Guatemala City on March 27, 2012. (JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Im

A high-ranking State Department official called for "flexible" interpretations of international drug control treaties at the United Nations in New York City last week, citing marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.

Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield's Oct. 9 remarks were the third time this year he has made such a call. And the high-profile venue underscores the pressure that state legalization efforts have put on the U.S. to allow other countries to amend strict, decades-old international drug control treaties.

"How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?" said Brownfield.

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