The three major international drug control treaties are mutually supportive and complementary. An important purpose of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances codify internationally applicable control measures in order to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, and to prevent their diversion into illicit channels and include general provisions on trafficking and drug use. The 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances significantly reinforced the obligation of countries to apply criminal sanctions to combat all the aspects of illicit production, possession and trafficking of drugs. (Commentaries on the conventions)

  • Scheduling in the international drug control system

    Christopher Hallam Dave Bewley-Taylor Martin Jelsma
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 25
    June 2014

    While often viewed as an obscure technical issue, the problem of scheduling lies at the core of the functioning of the international drug control system. Scheduling – the classification of a substance within a graded system of controls and restrictions, or 'schedules' – must take place in order for a substance to be included in the international control framework, and determines the type and intensity of controls to be applied. For this reason, the topic is of central importance.

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  • The Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition

    The History of Cannabis in the UN Drug Control System and Options For Reform
    Dave Bewley-Taylor Tom Blickman Martin Jelsma
    Transnational Institute / Global Drug Policy Observatory
    March 2014

    The cannabis plant has been used for spiritual, medicinal and recreational purposes since the early days of civilization. In this report the Transnational Institute and the Global Drug Policy Observatory describe in detail the history of international control and how cannabis was included in the current UN drug control system. Cannabis was condemned by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as a psychoactive drug with “particularly dangerous properties” and hardly any therapeutic value.

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  • The US incapacity to enforce federal drug laws - and the global consequences

    Francisco Thoumi
    Open Democracy (US)
    Friday, November 1, 2013

    The US drug policy is changing, pitting states against federal law. This essay explores this inner friction of contradictory drug legislation, and what it may mean for the international drug control regime, itself a result of US drug policy. (4,400 words)

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  • Roadmaps for Reforming the UN Drug Conventions

    Robin Room & Sarah MacKay
    Beckley Foundation
    December 2012

    The three UN Drug Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 currently impose a ‘one-size-fits-all’ prohibitionist approach to drug policy throughout the world. This new report explains in detail how the Conventions could be amended in order to give countries greater freedom to adopt drug policies better suited to their special needs.

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  • Governing The Global Drug Wars

    LSE Ideas
    October, 2012

    Since 1909 the international community has worked to eradicate the abuse of narcotics. A century on, the efforts are widely acknowledged to have failed, and worse, have spurred black market violence and human rights abuses. How did this drug control system arise, why has it proven so durable in the face of failure, and is there hope for reform?

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  • The International Drug Control Treaties

    How Important Are They to U.S. Drug Reform?
    Heather J. Haase, Nicolas Edward Eyle, and Joshua Raymond Schrimpf
    New York City Bar Association Committee on Drugs & the Law
    August 2012

    The way the world looks at drug control is changing. There has been a growing awareness of the issue for the past decade, as well as increasing public outcry over what many see as a failure of the once popular "war on drugs." Nowhere is this battle more pronounced than in the so-called "marijuana wars," which are slowly growing into an old-fashioned standoff between the states and the federal government.

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  • Towards revision of the UN drug control conventions

    The logic and dilemmas of Like-Minded Groups
    Dave Bewley-Taylor
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 19
    March 2012

    Recent years have seen a growing unwillingness among increasing numbers of States parties to fully adhere to a strictly prohibitionist reading of the UN drug control conventions; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

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  • The Limits of Latitude

    The UN drug control conventions
    Dave Bewley-Taylor Martin Jelsma
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 18
    March 2012

    Faced with a complex range of drug related problems, a growing number of nations are exploring the development of nationally appropriate policies that shift away from the prohibition-oriented approach that has long dominated the field but is losing more and more legitimacy. In so doing, such countries must pay close attention to the UN based global drug control framework of which practically all nations are a part.

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  • Regime change

    Re-visiting the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
    Martin Jelsma Dave Bewley-Taylor
    International Journal of Drug Policy 23 (2012) 72– 81
    January 2012

    March 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This legal instrument, the bedrock of the current United Nations based global drug control regime, is often viewed as merely a consolidating treaty bringing together the multilateral drug control agreements that preceded it; an erroneous position that does little to provide historical context for contemporary discussions surrounding revision of the international treaty system.

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  • How well do international drug conventions protect public health?

    Robin Room & Peter Reuter
    The Lancet
    Volume 379, Issue 9810, pp. 84 - 91
    January 7, 2011

    The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961 aimed to eliminate the illicit production and non-medical use of cannabis, cocaine, and opioids, an aim later extended to many pharmaceutical drugs. Over the past 50 years international drug treaties have neither prevented the globalisation of the illicit production and non-medical use of these drugs, nor, outside of developed countries, made these drugs adequately available for medical use. The system has also arguably worsened the human health and wellbeing of drug users by increasing the number of drug users imprisoned, discouraging effective countermeasures to the spread of HIV by injecting drug users, and creating an environment conducive to the violation of drug users' human rights. The international treaties have constrained national policy experimentation because they require nation states to criminalise drug use. The adoption of national policies that are more aligned with the risks of different drugs and the effectiveness of controls will require the amendment of existing treaties, the formulation of new treaties, or withdrawal of states from existing treaties and re-accession with reservations.

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