The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is an international treaty administered by the UN. It was signed in 1961 and basically combined several existing treaties regulating international drug laws. As of 2005 the Single Convention had 180 Parties. The Convention created the familiar four Schedules of controlled substances and a process for adding new substances to the Schedules without amending the treaty. The Schedules were designed to have significantly stricter regulations than the two drug “Groups” established by predecessor treaties. For the first time, cannabis was added to the list of internationally controlled drugs.

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The treaty was the brainchild of Harry Anslinger. That name should send goosebumps down any pot supporter’s spine; I’ll write a post on him in the future. He was basically a one man show who made marijuana illegal and used the mass media to create a negative image for the plant. Riding high on the success of his marijuana tax act of 1937 Anslinger set his sights on the international stage. Using the influence of the United States to his advantage he convinced the UN to go ahead with this new treaty which served the interests of his cannabis vendetta.

The Single Convention has been extremely influential in standardizing national drug control laws. Article 36 requires Parties to criminalize “cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession, offering, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, delivery on any terms whatsoever, brokerage, dispatch, dispatch in transit, transport, importation and exportation of drugs contrary to the provisions of this Convention,”

Article 36 requires Parties to criminalize “cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession, offering, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, delivery on any terms whatsoever, brokerage, dispatch, dispatch in transit, transport, importation and exportation of drugs contrary to the provisions of this Convention,” as well as “[i]ntentional participation in, conspiracy to commit and attempts to commit, any of such offences, and preparatory acts and financial operations in connexion with the offences referred to in this article”. The Article also provides for extradition of drug offenders. Signed countries must control all drugs of abuse at least as strictly as required by the Single Convention. Regulations vary significantly around the globe. Countries such as Singapore and Malaysia impose capitol punishment for offences exceeding a certain weight; 15 g of heroin, 30 g of cocaine or 500 g of cannabis in Sinapore. Some countries seldom prosecute minor offences or not at all in the case of the Netherlands.

The Single Convention places the same restrictions on cannabis cultivation that it does on opium cultivation. It is required that each member nation establish a government agency to control cultivation. In Canada that is health canada and NIDA in the US. Industrial hemp is excluded from these provisions but in the US the DEA has made it extremely un-profitable. There have been numerous attempts to remove cannabis from schedule IV (most restrictive) due to its medical applications. To date little progress has been made.