The United Nations’ (UN) narcotics watchdog issued a press release on March 9, saying that U.S. adult-use cannabis laws are out of sync with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, (with roots in Reefer Madness) and that the “trivialization” of youth harms from cannabis is a major cause for concern.
The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said that it is “warning” in its Annual Report 2022 that the wave of adult-use efforts in U.S. states “contravenes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs” and sends the wrong message to youth.
“The most concerning effect of cannabis legalization is the likelihood of increased use, particularly among young people, according to estimated data,” the INCB wrote. “In the United States, it has been shown that adolescents and young adults consume significantly more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized compared to other states where recreational use remains illegal.”
The UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs states that UN member States must carry out the provisions of the Convention within their territories. U.S. state laws don’t appear to carry much weight. “The internal distribution of powers between the different levels of a State cannot be invoked as justification for the failure to perform a treaty,” the Convention reads.
The INCB continued, saying, “There is also evidence that general availability of legalized cannabis products lowers the perception of risk and of the negative consequences involved in using them. New products, such as edibles or vaping products marketed in appealing packaging have increased the trend. INCB finds that this has contributed to a trivialization of the impacts of cannabis use in the public eye, especially among young people.”
“The expanding cannabis industry is marketing cannabis-related products to appeal to young people and this is a major cause for concern as is the way the harms associated with using high-potency cannabis products are being played down,” said INCB President Jagjit Pavadia.
Pavadia continued, “Evidence suggests that cannabis legalization has not been successful in dissuading young people from using cannabis, and illicit markets persist.”
The legalization of adult-use cannabis—not candy-flavored Adderall, sometimes used by six-year-olds—is the UN’s cause of concern in the U.S. Edibles and vape pens with candy and cereal flavors also raise an alarm at the INCB.
Ironically, the 1961 Single Convention can be traced to the Reefer Madness era in the U.S., and shouldn’t be used as any real metric, according to NORML.
“Cannabis policy reform advocates have been readily vexed by the United Nation’s extreme anti-cannabis advocacy and propaganda since the 1970s, and arguably after America’s original drug czar Harry J. Anslinger, in his last act as a life-long anti-cannabis zealot and 30-year plus federal drug czar, he watched President John F. Kennedy commit the world and then American-dominated United Nations to America’s Reefer Madness via the signing of the Single Convention Treaty in 1961,” wrote former NORML executive president, Allen St. Pierre.
The report then says that the U.S. should decriminalize and depenalize cannabis alternatively instead of legalizing adult-use.
According to the INCB, the UN provides more than enough leniency: “The convention-based system offers significant flexibility for States to protect young people, improve public health, avoid unnecessary incarceration and address illicit markets and related crime.”
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.