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Almost all nations are currently parties to the UN international drug control conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988; treaties that taken together form what can be usefully called the global drug prohibition regime. Despite interpretative tensions around some national policy approaches that deviate from punitive prohibition, the inherent flexibility within the conventions permit members of the regime some policy space at the national level. Should they wish to do so, however, states already pushing at the limits of the regime would only be able to expand such national policy space via an alteration in their relationship to the UN drug control conventions and the prohibitive norm at the regime's core. The article applies an international relations approach, including examples from the UN system in general and other issue areas in particular, to explore how the formation and operation of a group, or groups, of like-minded nations may offer a route towards some form of substantive treaty revision. Although common in other areas of international concern, the varied nature of dissatisfaction with the prohibitive ethos of the regime combines with the character of drug policy to generate specific dilemmas for the like-minded group (LMG) approach. Nonetheless, within the current policy environment it is plausible to foresee the construction of groupings around a number of themes: traditional and religious drug use, cannabis regulation, technical issues relating to inconsistencies within the conventions and UN system-wide coherence. These potential groups provide the basis for a number of possible scenarios for treaty revision and highlight essential commonalities of approach that should be considered whatever the route towards reform. The increasingly obvious weaknesses within, tensions around and negative consequences of the regime in its current form make a recalibration of the UN drug control conventions via an LMG approach an enterprise worthy of time and effort. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


David R Bewley-Taylor. Towards revision of the UN drug control conventions: harnessing like-mindedness. The International journal on drug policy. 2013 Jan;24(1):60-8

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PMID: 23036654

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