Senators Lambast Obama Administration For Flouting International Drug Conventions

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein are blasting the Obama administration for not enforcing federal marijuana law, a decision they say puts the U.S. in conflict with the U.N.

Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, and Feinstein, a Democrat from California, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State John Kerry demanding an answer as to why the Department of Justice and the State Department have adopted “flexible interpretations” of the United Nations Conventions on Narcotic Drugs.

The senators point out that it’s difficult for the United States to maintain a hard stance on drug trafficking abroad while turning a blind eye to marijuana legalization in Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska.

“Indeed, we are concerned that these policies suggest that the United States will be reluctant to publicly criticize the drug control policies of countries that violate the U.N. Conventions going forward, and that the United States’ silence could be perceived as acceptance,” the senators wrote.

They gave Kerry a deadline of Feb. 1 to explain how the administration can continue to maintain strong standards against drug trafficking on the international level, while simultaneously flouting it in the domestic arena. Grassley has previously suggested that inaction from the Obama administration essentially constitutes tacit encouragement of youth using the Schedule 1 drug, according to

“It’s unknown how all of this will evolve,” a spokeswoman for Grassley told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Sen. Grassley has been clear that he thinks the Justice Department should enforce the Controlled Substances Act.”

“On the State Department, it’s unclear what precisely ‘flexible interpretation’ means, and so that’s what the senators are asking for — more information. The concern is that the United States would be looking away while other countries legalize drugs that the UN Conventions (that they agreed to) require to be illegal. The illegal drug trade across borders would be affected,” the spokeswoman added.

This isn’t by any means the first time interested parties have drawn attention to the uneasy tension between state and international law. Back in 2012, Raymond Yans, president of the International Narcotics Control Board, issued a press release which stated that the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs entails certain unavoidable obligations, namely that the United States is required to nullify legalization measures in Colorado and Washington.

However, according to Reason Magazine, Patrick Gallahue of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program countered by noting that the Single Convention states that obligations are subject to the constitutional limits of signatories.

What Grassley and Feinstein are asking for, most of all, is for Kerry to clear up the legal fog and give a straight answer. But regardless of what the answer might be, some advocates for marijuana legalization show no signs of trepidation.

“I do not see any circumstances under which the Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, D.C. legalization laws — or the 23 state medical marijuana laws — would ever be repealed as a result of the U.N. treaty,” Mason Tvert, Director of Communcations, told TheDCNF.

According to Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, the senators’ protests reflect an attitude that is “increasingly out of touch with a growing majority of voters who support replacing failed prohibition policies with legalization.”

“Thankfully there is a new bipartisan generation of leaders coming in — from Democrat Cory Booker to Republican Rand Paul — who know what voters want on this issue and are prepared to push for it,” Angell told TheDCNF.

When considering the impact of marijuana on the international system, former deputy director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Sandeep Chawla told the Washington Post that it’s a definite weak point, one which desperately needs reform. According to Chawla, the fact that reform is necessary “has been obvious for 30 years.”

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