The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform

Conventions

Three international UN Drug Conventions (1961, 1971, 1988) represent the legal basis of drug prohibition, and are the major obstacle preventing reform, restricting nation states from exploring alternative approaches to drug control within their own borders.

A ‘convention’ is a treaty, a written agreement under international law, entered into by sovereign states and/or international organisations such as the United Nations. An example would be the Geneva Conventions that establish the humanitarian treatment of war victims. The jurisdiction of such conventions applies only to Nations who sign the agreement.

Signed in 1961 (UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs), 1971 (UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances) and 1988 (UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances), the three Conventions regulate the production, possession, sale and use of controlled psychoactive substances.

The UN Drug Conventions are designed to control both international trade of the substances and domestic drug law.

The great many countries that became signatories to these conventions must in particular forbid any domestic market in prohibited substances and make possession of the substances a criminal offense.

 Exclusion to these restrictions applies only to authorized medical and scientific research. During the U.S. prohibition of alcohol, possession and use were not criminalised.

1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

Date of Signing

March, 1961

Creates prohibitive zero-tolerance control system for production, distribution possession and use of opium, coca and cannabis. This legislation marks the first time that possession and use have been prohibited.

Location of Signing

New York, USA

Entry into Force

December, 1964 


1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances 

Date of Signing

February, 1971

Expands the 1961 Convention to new substances.

Location of Signing

Vienna, Austria

Entry into Force

August, 1976

 

1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

Date of Signing

December, 1988

Represents significant escalation in War on Drugs approach, classifying drug users as criminals.

Location of Signing

Vienna, Austria

Entry into Force

November, 1990