By Daniel Bear - The Globe and Mail

The war on drugs is dead. The only remnants of the once dominant paradigm exist in the form of three United Nations treaties controlling drugs. As the UN begins the Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) on Tuesday, it is time for Canada to exercise the often ignored flexibility contained within these treaties, and move forward with the legalization and regulation of cannabis.

Though international drug control treaties have been around since 1907, it was not until the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs that the world coalesced around one set of rules to prevent distribution and use of narcotic drugs except for medical and scientific purposes. While the “drug war” as we knew it claimed its legitimacy from this treaty (and its companions passed in 1971 and 1988), such heavy-handed responses were not necessarily the intention. Countries were only required to make possession of cannabis illegal in the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs. But even then, at the height of the crack epidemics, no one could have imagined the self-inflicted brutality that would emerge to combat drugs in the final decades of the 20th century.

It is now time for the international community to acknowledge the beginning of a new era, and provide support for countries trying new ways to regulate drugs in a safe and responsible manner.

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