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American Journal of International Law Unbound

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Cannabis reforms, international law, Drug Enforcement Administration


Food and Drug Law | Law


Cannabis reforms are proliferating. A handful of nations have already legalized the drug for recreational purposes, and several more may soon follow suit. These national cannabis reforms are generating bottom-up pressure to liberalize the transnational legal order (TLO) for cannabis prohibition, one that involves not only international law, but also domestic law and regulatory practice. Based on a trio of international conventions, this TLO currently requires member states to limit access to marijuana, especially for non-medical or non-scientific purposes. But even as it comes under attack from below, the existing cannabis prohibition TLO may be exerting its own downward pressure on national cannabis policies. This essay uses a timely case study involving the United States’ marijuana research policy to explore the two-way relationship between international law and national cannabis policies in the dynamics of transnational legal ordering. It highlights an overlooked way the international conventions are currently helping to stifle national cannabis reforms, and it discusses the possible ramifications of that top-down pressure for the future of the cannabis prohibition TLO.



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