Russia and few countries like Canada are at loggerheads over the issue of cannabis and hold conflicting views on drug related legislation. As per the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC’s) World Drug Report 2019, Russia along with the US and China was one of the three countries that together accounted for 43% of injected drug use globally.
Russia has identified the drug and crime policy as an area challenging the existing Western-dominated order and has strongly advocated a hard-line approach that seeks to eliminate the illegal drug market. On the other hand, the US has softened its stance on drug policy since the last decade.
Russia has taken hard-line stance on drugs and has expressed its counter-narcotics vision in a number of multilateral forums. In addition, the Russian Federation has continued to be a relatively important donor to the UNODC. Russia ranked 15th among major donors to the Special Purpose Fund (SPF) in 2017, according to the UNODC’s 2017 Annual Report. Moreover, in 2010 Russia made a voluntary contribution of USD7 million to the UNODC.
Russia has opposed the regularisation of cannabis markets as it believes that it violates a number of the UN Conventions. It may be recalled that in October 2018, a Russian statement on twitter said that Canada’s efforts to legalize pot will lead to an increase in international drug trafficking and contradicts existing treaties.
The translated Russian testimonial reads: “By consciously torpedoing the international drug control regime, the Canadian government is creating the largest drug market in the world that, despite all the claims and measures being considered to prevent the export of cannabis outside national borders, will certainly raise considerable traffic to other states, including those which are strictly adhered to in the spirit and letter of the conventions mentioned”. Canada provided a form of response to the Russian intervention when its permanent representative Ambassador Heidi Hulan clarified that policy shifts in Canada were a response to the country’s domestic situation and were not intended to apply in other countries with their own distinctive challenges. In 2019, Russia sponsored the resolution, ‘Supporting the International Narcotics Control Board in fulfilling its treaty-mandated role’ before the Commission on Narcotics Drug (CND).
A Russian delegate explained to the Committee that this resolution expressed “deep concern about legalisation of non-medical use of certain drugs in some regions, which represents a challenge to the universal implementation of the drug control conventions, a challenge to public health and well-being, particularly among young people, and a challenge to the States’ parties to the conventions”.
Russia has been critical of Canada’s marijuana legislation and believes Canada had opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ as cases of drug violation have started to multiply and this contravenes international law.