The United Nations General Assembly will hold a special session April 19 to April 21 to discuss changing its policies initiated in the 1960s criminalizing drugs and drug users. It is now widely recognized that those policies have failed. Hopefully, topping the list of reforms by the U.N. body will be the removal of marijuana from the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty to prohibit the production and supply of specific drugs.
That could go a long way toward clearing away international agreements that have been among the impediments to decriminalization of marijuana by the U.S. government. It would also put an end to the billions of dollars wasted each year on the U.S. government’s continuing war on marijuana, which has continued even as a growing number of states are legalizing marijuana.
In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has just released a memo stating it will decide in the next few months whether to change the federal status of marijuana. A change in U.N. policy would make it easier for the federal government to begin the process of legalizing marijuana.
Let’s back up. Here in America, marijuana legislation is at the tipping point. Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws and four states plus DC have adult use laws. As many as 10 states will have ballot initiatives this fall. More than 58 percent of Americans are in favor of legal marijuana use.
A huge illicit marijuana industry already exists worldwide. Proponents of legalizing marijuana argue that legalization will change this industry to a non-criminal, controlled industry akin to the controlled alcohol and tobacco industries. Growth and sales of marijuana will thus contribute to the economy as a major new industry in the U.S. and around the world.
In the past month alone, three industry analysts have published bold predictions for the value of the marijuana industry, with widespread predictions ranging from $21 billion to $44 billion by 2020. They all have one common caveat: The federal government would first need to legalize marijuana. Even now, the exponential economic growth in states where marijuana is sold legally is substantial and compounding as more and more states begin doing business.
We need to stop spending billions of dollars a year fighting the marijuana war. Legalization would not only eliminate needless government spending but add billions in tax revenue to government coffers and add thousands of jobs from farming to retail sales.
To realize that dream fully there are several obstacles for the industry to overcome amid the political banter including reclassification, state’s rights, and decriminalization. Currently, there are three treaties that may be a more important first step to address at the federal level: The United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), and the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988).
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