Canada’s Policy on Cannabis Continues to Be Problematic

A blog post by Matthew Califano, Junior Associate.

The Cannabis Act legalized recreational cannabis use within Canada. The Act was passed on June 19th, 2018 and was effective on October 17th, 2018.[1] The purpose of this Act “is to protect public health and public safety,” while attempting to “deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis” and to enhance public awareness of the any health risks that are association with the use of cannabis.[2] However, the nationwide legalization of cannabis is a flagrant violation of UN drug treaties that Canada is a signatory to.[3]

Violating the drug treaties has created issues with other participants to these treaties, such as Russia[4] , while generating backlash from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).[5] The INCB issued a press release that stated “The Government of Canada has contributed to weakening the international legal drug control framework and undermining the rules-based international order,”[6] while the INCB president, Cornelis de Joncheere, voiced that the UN “has repeatedly and publicly spoken out that these (legalization laws) are in violation of the obligations under the conventions.”[7] The Permanent Representative  of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, expressed his concerns with a potentially damaging precedent that Canada might be establishing.[8] Mr. Ulyanov asserted that

“The decision adopted by Canada in fact opens the Pandora Box… there exists real danger that some other countries may follow the example set by Canada, which would lead to the erosion and even dismantling of the whole international legal foundation of our fight against narcotic drugs.”[9]


(Picture of Mr. Mikhail Ulyanov, retrieved via

[1] Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Canada Department of Justice, (last visited Feb. 7, 2020),

[2] Cannabis Act, Purpose, Canada Department of Justice, (last visited Feb. 7, 2020),

[3] Kyle Duggan, Withdrawing from UN drug treaties would be detrimental: Global Affairs official, iPolitics (Mar. 21, 2018),

[4] Embassy of the Russian Federation in Canada (@RussianEmbassyC), TWITTER,, (last visited Feb. 7, 2020).

[5] Press Release, International Narcotics Control Board, Statement by the International Narcotics Control Board on the Entry into force of Bill C-45 legalising cannabis for non-medical purposes in Canada (Oct. 17, 2018).

[6] Id.

[7] Evan Dyer, Canada’s cannabis policy makes it an international rebel on drug treaties, CBC (Dec. 20, 2019),


[8] Ministry of Foreign Aff. of the Russ. Fed’n Press Release, Statement of the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna Mr. Mikhail Ulyanov at the 5th intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Vienna, (Nov. 7. 2018) at

[9] Id.

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