A vendor trims marijuana with scissors during the annual 4-20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on April 20, 2017. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)The Trudeau government introduced legislation in April with a goal of legalizing and regulating the use of recreational marijuana by July 2018. Canada and Uruguay must comply with three United Nations drug-control treaties, to which each is a party. The conventions criminalize the possession and production of non-medical cannabis. The ambassador said Uruguay, which first passed its marijuana legislation in 2013, has spent several years persuading partners that legalization places a strong emphasis on public health and human rights. Vidal says the challenging task has forced Uruguay to put its international credibility on the line — but he insists there have been small signs of movement. "We see not that the tide is turning, but the international community's allowing this issue to be part of the discussion," Vidal said at Uruguay's embassy in Ottawa.
"Considering the Canadian process is a few years behind (Uruguay's), they will probably come to this discussion with some very difficult first discussions already passed." While Vidal acknowledged the progress so far has only been "very minor," he's encouraged because it can take many decades for rules of this nature to budge. Progress, he added, has come in the form of more countries showing a willingness to discuss the issue. The wording of declarations from international forums has also shown increasing openness, he said. Vidal said Uruguay's goal has not been to change the minds of other countries about cannabis, but to get them to accept that there are other ways to approach drug control.
'It's not that the path is already clear'
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'There are lessons to be learned'Canada and Uruguay are currently party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. A briefing note prepared for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and obtained early last year by The Canadian Press said Canada would have to find a way to essentially tell the world how it plans to conform to its treaty obligations. Canada has also received direct input from Uruguay, which has shared its legalization experience with Ottawa. The countries' co-operation on pot will continue with an upcoming video conference between officials to discuss Canada's legislation, Vidal said. "There are lessons to be learned."