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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Legislative Options for Cannabis - Australian Government

Chapter 3.


Regulatory option

Regulatory options might include regulated commercial sale or a government monopoly. In 1979 the Sackville Royal Commission took the view that regulation could not be accommodated under the Single Convention (p311). The advent of the AIDS epidemic and concern about injecting drug use and disease transmission may have contributed to recent interpretations of treaty obligations that differ from this view. [81]Woltring (1990) states that it is open to Parties, within the context of 'medical or scientific purpose', to:

  • provide for the cultivation of cannabis by a government agency;
  • provide for the manufacture of cannabis by a government agency or private concern under government licence;
  • trade in and distribute cannabis through a government agency or private enterprise under government licence;
  • 'supply or dispense drugs to drug abusers or AIDS/Hepatitis B risk users under appropriate programs' (p20).

He goes on to remark that 'While any Party could adopt such options on the basis that they serve the medical or therapeutic objective of treating drug addiction or abuse, the options could not be adopted if their ultimate purpose was to enable recreational use as distinct from medical or therapeutic use' (p20).

Under [82]Woltring's model, regulation could co-exist with treaty obligations, but only to a limited extent - within a medical model. Supply or dispensation of drugs to drug users for medical purposes is considerably easier to reconcile with treaty obligations in the context of injecting drug use than in relation to cannabis. It might be argued that high THC content of illicit cannabis represented a health risk to users 3, that could be overcome through regulated supply, or that separation of drug markets would make it less likely that cannabis users would be exposed to and thus move on to more dangerous drug use involving injecting drugs. However, these propositions would be unlikely to convince most governments or commentators.


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