Uruguay’s decision to legalise cannabis goes against a worldwide drugs convention, a UN drugs group has warned.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) criticised a Government-backed Bill – passed earlier this week – that legalised growing, selling and consuming cannabis in the South American country.
The group said the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs requires that countries limit cannabis use to medical and scientific purposes.
The INCB says Uruguay is a party to the convention and “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed legal provisions of the treaty”.
Raymond Yans, the board’s President, warned that the legislation will encourage young people to experiment with the drug – which could “seriously affect their development”.
The legislation “relied on rather precarious and unsubstantiated assumptions” to back up its stated aim of reducing crime, the group commented.
The INCB was established by the United Nations to monitor countries’ compliance with international drug treaties.
Mr Yans said the “decision of the Uruguayan legislature fails to consider its negative impacts on health since scientific studies confirm that cannabis is an addictive substance with serious consequences for people’s health”.
“In particular, the use and abuse of cannabis by young people can seriously affect their development”, he commented.
The country’s decision “will not protect young people but rather have the perverse effect of encouraging early experimentation, lowering the age of first use, and thus contributing to developmental problems and earlier onset of addiction and other disorders”, he said.
International conventions on drugs do “recommend treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration as an alternative to imprisonment”, the INCB said, as it called on the Uruguay Government to engage with the board on the issue.
In the UK the Government minister in charge of drugs policy has said legalising cannabis needs to be considered alongside other options.
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who previously said cannabis is no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol, made the comments while giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee.