Global Health Law Students Author Ground-Breaking Report on Legalization of Cannabis

Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2017

Students from the Faculty of Law’s Global Health Law Clinic, under the guidance of Professor Steven Hoffman, have published a path-breaking report on the legalization of cannabis in Canada, identifying international legal barriers the government will face in its effort to regulate the substance, and proposing innovative solutions.

The report, entitled Reconciling Canada’s Legalization of Non-Medical Cannabis with the UN Drug Control Treaties, was authored by students Megan Fultz, Lisa Page, Alysha Pannu, and Matthew Quick as part of their work in the Common Law Section’s dual Global Health Law Clinic courses. The report coincides with new legislation being introduced by the Government of Canada that will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to cannabis. As the report explains, Canada’s current international legal obligations are incompatible with its plans to legalize and regulate the use and possession of non-medical cannabis. “This report reminds us that Canada is at risk of violating two UN drug control treaties, but that there is at least one creative way of reconciling the apparent conflicts,” says Professor Hoffman.

The report examines several approaches Canada could take to legally override its obligations to the UN conventions, ultimately outlining a strategy involving the use of a medical and scientific research exemption in the treaties. The authors outline the steps the federal government could take to avoid having to withdraw from UN drug control conventions. It is the first report of its kind to articulate such a legal pathway.

“The high calibre of work completed by the students demonstrates how much future lawyers can contribute to society if they are provided with the opportunities and supports needed to do so,” says Professor Hoffman.

Update:  Following the federal government’s introduction of new legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Thursday, April 13, the students’ report has been cited by the New York Times.

The Global Health Law Clinic is a one-of-a-kind experiential learning opportunity for students interested in gaining exposure to global health law and policy issues. As this example demonstrates, students gain experience tackling real-world global health challenges, writing for external audiences, and providing research, analysis, and advice for United Nations agencies, national governments, and civil society organizations.

Congratulations to Megan, Lisa, Alysha and Matthew on the realization of this important work!

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