Canadian health officials tout country's "strict" cannabis regulations to the UN

Mar 11 2020, 4:06 pm

During a recent speech to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a Canadian health official not only touted the government’s commitment to a strict regulatory framework when it comes to cannabis among its accomplishments but also said they wouldn’t recommend other nations take the same approach.

Michelle Boudreau gave the opening remarks for Canada at the 63rd General Debate of the UNCND in Vienna, Austria. In it, she outlined the country’s accomplishments when it comes to domestic and international drug policy.

Unsurprisingly, cannabis figured heavily into the remarks, but less expected were the comments that other countries should not emulate the Canada’s approach to the drug.

“Canada continues to implement our strict regulatory framework for cannabis, as a domestic public health approach,” reads a copy of Boudreau’s speech. “We do not advocate for this approach as a solution for other states.”

Despite this, she does take the time to outline the positive impacts of legalization on Canada.

“The illegal market has already lost 30% of its market share, and we have seen no corresponding increase in the overall size of the market,” reads her speech. “This represents nearly $2 billion in sales that did not go to criminal organizations.”

She also points to early figures that show no significant increase in illegal exportation or an uptick in use among young people.

Boudreau goes on to lay out the four elements that drive the motivation behind Canada’s cannabis legalization strategy: strict access controls with an emphasis on preventing youth access, regulatory requirements and standards for the legal cannabis industry, extensive public education on the risks associated with cannabis use, and a comprehensive monitoring and surveillance program.

However, while the successes and failures of the cannabis file are still developing, much of her comments focused on dealing with the ongoing opioid epidemic in the country.

To date, Canada has 40 supervised consumption sites,” reads a French-language portion of her prepared remarks. “I would like to point out that there has been more [than] 1.6 million visits, the effects of more than 14,000 overdoses were stopped without a single death and that over 57,000 people have been diverted to services health care and social services. In 2019, we have opened Canada’s first overdose prevention site in a federal prison.”

Preceding adult-use legalization, in 2018, the Russian Federation criticized Canada’s role in the same UN committee while moving forward with plans to create a regulated framework for cannabis sales.

“The intention of the Canadian authorities to legalize drugs is all the more defiant bearing in mind that this country is currently a member of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs,” a statement from Russia’s foreign ministry said at the time. “A CND Member State, which by virtue of this status should safeguard the strict adherence to the conventions, is in fact destroying them from inside.”

Specifically, the statement points to Canada’s 2016 reaffirmation at the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem to uphold the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.