Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 November 2019
What legal avenues are there to regulate cannabis cultivation and trade for recreational use? This question has generated heated discussions in various societies, in political and academic discourses. Several states are considering or have adjusted their legal and policy approaches towards a more lenient regulation of cannabis cultivation and trade for the recreational user market. These discussions have been the overture for two academic studies that we have conducted recently.
The first study focused on the question to what extent are domestic initiatives involving regulation of cannabis cultivation for recreational use compatible with the relevant UN narcotic drugs conventions and European Union law. It was this question that took centre stage in the political discussion in the Netherlands at that time. The results of this study were presented to the Minister of Justice and Security in the Netherlands in 2014. Because of the limitation of this first study to the framework of UN and EU law regulating drugs only, we decided to complement our research by involving international law more broadly and by looking more specifically at the positive human rights obligations.
The second study covered two questions. First, to what extent can regulation of cannabis for recreational use, for the sake of health, safety and crime control, be considered a positive human rights obligation resulting from the right to health, the right to life, the right to physical and psychological integrity and the right to privacy. In the event this obligation can be established, the second question concerned the hierarchical relationship between these positive human rights obligations and the obligations arising from the UN drugs conventions and EU anti-drugs laws. This second study was presented to politicians in the Netherlands in 2016. Since that time, the developments in the Netherlands have progressed to the extent that the government has decided to set up an experiment for legal supply of cannabis to point-of-sale for recreational use. The legislation concerning this experiment is being prepared as we speak.