We (Japanese NGO) submit the following proposal to the 51st session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs as a formal request to conduct an objective review of Cannabis regulation by international treaties. Please examine the information presented to build an effective drug policy.
A Proposal for Reforming Cannabis Control under the International Treaties Cannabis Control Law Victim Center (THC Japan) THC stands for:Taima torishimariho (Cannabis Control Law) Higaisha (Victim) Center Mar 2008
Cannabis is a strictly controlled plant as well as coca and poppy under the regulation of international treaties such as the 1961 Convention and the 1988 United Nations Convention. Many scientific reports have concluded that cannabis is much less harmful than heroin and cocaine, and some suggest even alcohol. As for the benefits associated with cannabis, It is widely accepted that use of cannabis causes relief of mental stress, and enhances homeostatic function. Some reported that it shows positive effects in pain relief treatment of multiple sclerosis and terminal cancer, on the loss of appetite and body caused by the progressive wasting syndrome of HIV carriers, and the dependence of alcohol. Moreover, it is expected that cannabis can be applied as a reliever to syndromes of mobility impairment, physical drug dependence, neuronal disorder and psychiatric disease. Despite its legal status, it has actually been prescribed as a medicine to a various diseases in some countries. In many developed countries, especially in Europe, police do not make arrest for the personal possession of cannabis. These policies, which literally conflict with the international drug treaties, are consistent with scientific findings about the physical risk of cannabis and allow law enforcement to focus there efforts on real drug problems that negatively impact society. On the other hand, prohibition has created drug-related organized crimes and increased the law enforcement cost, losing the public credibility for the policy’s effectiveness. We see many public demands for reforming the international drug policies so to address real drug problems more effectively. In Japan, cultivation and use of cannabis for recreational purposes in any form leads to a prison term under the zero-tolerance policy backed by the prohibitive international treaties. Only a person who acquires the hemp grower’s license can grow cannabis licitly. However, it is limited only for industrial purposes and rarely issued by the authorities. The same strict prohibition is applied to the use for medical purposes. These prohibitive policies have consequently spawned a number of social problems in this country such as the expansion of the underground economy and, proportionately, its law enforcement cost, and, above all, violation of human rights of personal users and depriving therapeutic opportunities from medical cannabis patients. It seems clear that these restrictions are attributed to the exaggerated negative claims and misconceptions about actual effects of cannabis. The schedule under the international treaties, is inconsistent with recent scientific findings, and should be reviewed and reformed to make the drug policy work properly. As the United Nations defined the year 2008 as a “Year of Reflection”, holding meetings to review its drug policy of the past decade, we think it is a time to re-address the policy so it is consistent with scientific data and potential benefits associated with cannabis which is after all a natural plant. 1.The Current Japanese Cannabis Policy and Its Problems 1-1.Current Policy Using prohibitive international treaties as a basis for domestic legislation, the Japanese authorities
- have banned noncommercial use, cultivation and distribution with prison term regardless of its amount and purpose.
- have banned application and delivery of cannabis-based medicines for medical purpose with prison term.
- have conducted public campaign aiming to reinforce the stereotype that cannabis is a dangerous narcotic.
- have rarely issued the hemp grower’s license for licit industrial purpose even with due procedures.
- have conducted the eradication project of wild cannabis in the name of “crusade against illicit cannabis”.
- Human rights are violated by imposing prison terms for noncommercial use, possession and cultivation of cannabis: a plant widely accepted to be less harmful than cigarettes.
- An expanding market controlled by criminals is placing cannabis users whom are otherwise law abiding citizens in contact with hard drug dealers.
- The potential of cannabis as a substitute for more harmful drugs is ignored.
- The law enforcement cost to crack down on cannabis-related crimes is not worth the physical harm of cannabis itself.
- Choice of treatment of medical cannabis patients is jeopardized by sentencing prison term for application, delivery and use of cannabis-based medicine in any form.
- Banning application of cannabis for addiction treatment deprives people, who have dependency on drugs such as alcohol, nicotine and metha-amphetamine, of effective opportunity to recover.
- The exaggerated messages about physical harm of cannabis from authorities have little scientific basis. They misinform young people and deteriorate the credibility of government information about drugs as a whole.
- The factual errors about cannabis continue to promote human rights violations in the form of severe and unjust sentences in cannabis court cases.
- The high applicative potential of cannabis as a natural resource cannot be developed by keeping grower’s license application rejected.
- Wild cannabis eradication project made an insect, hemp-longicorn, face almost certain extinction.
2.Proposal for the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs It is clear that the severe penalties used to enforce cannabis control are more harmful than the act of possession or use itself. Our position is that the Japanese cannabis policy is unjust and counterproductive. Outdated and un-renewed international treaties provide the foundation to Japanese authorities as a justification for their policy. In light of this, we hereby make following three proposals to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
- International regulations of cannabis should be reexamined objectively with the latest findings from pharmaceutical, medical and social sciences.
- Individual rights of cultivation, possession and use of cannabis for personal and medical use should be granted.
- The basic idea for international cannabis control should be changed from zero-tolerance policy to one based on harm-reduction philosophy.