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Liberals urged to discuss plan for UN drug treaties as pot legalization looms

Canada plans to legalize marijuana in 2018, but has not yet withdrawn from the UN drug control treaties.
Canada plans to legalize marijuana in 2018, but has not yet withdrawn from the UN drug control treaties. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joe Mahoney

OTTAWA – Opposition parties and legal experts are urging the Liberal government to be clear on how it plans to handle the legalization of cannabis while Canada remains party to three UN treaties that control and criminalize drug access.

Steven Hoffman, a York University professor who specializes in global health law, says Canada needed to give notice on July 1 if it intended to withdraw from the treaties, if it plans to stick to the proposed timeline to legalize marijuana by this time next year.

READ MORE: Legal pot next year means leaving UN treaties by July 1 — but the Liberals won’t say what their plan is

Hoffman says he is primarily concerned Canada will choose to be in violation on the treaties when cannabis is legalized, noting the current lack of clarity could cause confusion on the global stage.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office says Canada has not withdrawn from the UN drug control treaties, adding it is examining a range of issues including international commitments.

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But NDP health critic Don Davies says she is failing to acknowledge the government will no longer be in compliance with the treaties once cannabis gets the legal green light.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent agrees it is problematic the Liberal government has not shared its thinking, noting decisions should have been made public weeks ago.