Law & Politics

The president of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Thursday voiced “grave concern” about the votes legalizing marijuana in the US states of Colorado and Washington, as well as in the Michigan cities of Detroit and Flint. INCB head Raymond Yans also warned that allowing for the legal, non-medical sale of marijuana would violate the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

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INCB President Raymond Yans (

The INCB is a quasi-judicial body charged with monitoring compliance with the Single Convention and associated treaties. It hectors governments that step outside its interpretation of what the treaties allow, although in practical terms, its ability to enforce its will is mainly rhetorical. INCB criticism of Australia and Canada over the establishment of safe injection sites, for example, has not moved those governments to end the practice, nor has its criticism of Bolivia over allowing coca cultivation resulted in a shift of policy in Bolivia.

Yans was inspired to speak out by the victories of Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington state, both of which envisage legal, state-regulated commercial marijuana cultivation and distribution regimes, and both of which will result in the possession of small amounts by adults being legal by early next year. The INCB also alluded to the votes in the Michigan cities of Detroit and Flint to legalize the possession of up to an ounce by adults on private property.

“These developments are in violation of the international drug control treaties, and pose a great threat to public health and the well-being of society far beyond those states,” Yans said in a Thursday statement. “Legalization of cannabis within these states would send wrong and confusing signals to youth and society in general, giving the false impression that drug abuse might be considered normal and even, most disturbingly, safe. Such a development could result in the expansion of drug abuse, especially among young people, and we must remember that all young people have a right to be protected from drug abuse and drug dependency.”

This isn’t your father’s marijuana, Yans warned.

“Since the adoption of this Convention, very potent new forms of cannabis have appeared on the illicit market, and technological advances have been used to increase the content of the most ‘active ingredient,’ so to speak, in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The cannabis on the illicit market today is much more dangerous than that seen in the 60s and 70s,” Yans said.

Yans also noted that “for the international drug control system to function effectively, to achieve its aim of ensuring availability of drugs for medical purposes while preventing their abuse, the conventions must be universally adhered to and implemented by all states.” He called on the US government “to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties within the entire territory of the United States, in order to protect the health and well-being of its citizens.”

Article republished from Stop the Drug War under Creative Commons Licensing