A ground-breaking 4/20 may be ahead of us as the United Nations General Assembly prepares for a special session to address global substance abuse issues. This will be the first time in almost 20 years that the UN will seriously review global drug policies, of which marijuana will be a major discussion point.
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) will take place in New York from April 19 to April 21, and will be attended by numerous world leaders and heads of state to discuss global substance abuse and drug trafficking issues as well as three international drug control treaties that have notoriously stood in the way of global marijuana reform.
Though the underlying theme of the assembly will be to support the rights of individual countries to determine their own drug policies, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, William Brownfield suggested that the Obama administration may actively push for drug policy reform instead of simply tolerating it.
According to statements made by Brownfield during a press conference earlier this month,
“We will call for pragmatic and concrete criminal justice reform, areas such as alternatives to incarceration or drug courts, or sentencing reform. In other words, as President Obama has said many times publicly, to decriminalize much of the basic behavior in drug consumption in order to focus scarce law enforcement resources on the greater challenge of the large transnational criminal organizations.”
The three-day event will involve plenary meetings featuring statements by many high-ranking authorities including the President of the General Assembly, the Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Director-General of the World Health Organization and the President of the International Narcotics Control Board.
The conference will also include the participation of numerous high-level ministerial heads, medical experts, youth advocacy representatives, and members of the scientific and academic communities. Each participant will represent the best interests of their demographic in five, multi-stakeholder roundtable discussions. All participants will be encouraged to engage in the discussion, but will be limited to three to five minutes to present their stance so as not to interfere with the interactive nature of the event. Each roundtable will consist of five panelists and two co-chairs, each of which must be nominated to participate.
Numerous side events will occur simultaneously with the event, each outlining specific details about current global drug policies and their impact on society. They will look at statistics, trends and research pertaining to drug policies in terms of public health, sustainability and the effectiveness of current drug policy models.
Participation in side events is limited to representatives of non-government organizations who are actively working on drug related matters including the scientific and academic communities, civil society and youth group representatives. Anyone wishing to attend the UNGASS or any of its side events must register online before March 28, 2016.
The plenary meetings and interactive roundtables will be webcast live beginning at 10:00 am EST on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.
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