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Canada's cannabis policy makes it an international rebel on drug treaties – CBC.ca

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While many Canadians have focused on the supply problems and overly optimistic business projections that have marred Ottawa’s marijuana legalization project, it’s also left behind some international loose ends that still haven’t been tied up.

Not all other countries have accepted Canada’s right to forge a new path on cannabis law. And the ending of Canada’s 95-year ban on cannabis appears to have accelerated the demise of a worldwide consensus and treaty regime that, for decades, underpinned the global war on drugs.

A year after legalization, Canada remains in flagrant violation of UN drug treaties that it signed — an uncomfortable situation for a country that likes to see itself as a stickler for international laws and treaties.

“The Government of Canada has contributed to weakening the international legal drug control framework and undermining the rules-based international order,” says the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

On Dec. 13, INCB President Cornelis de Joncheere reminded nations that the UN “has repeatedly and publicly spoken out that these (legalization laws) are in violation of the obligations under the conventions.”

Bolivian manoeuvres

A heavily-redacted memo that appears to have been signed by Ian Shugart as deputy minister of Foreign Affairs in March — just a month before cannabis became legal — discusses “withdrawing Canada’s objections to treaty actions by Bolivia under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, in advance of the entry into force of the Cannabis Act.”

When Bolivia tried to join the convention in the 1980s, it faced a dilemma. Those were the boom days of the cocaine trade and the coca plantations of South America were seen as the source of the scourge. But the people of the Andean nations had been chewing coca leaves for generations, so Bolivia negotiated a 25-year exemption for coca leaf.

A woman takes part in the “gran acullico,” or “the great chewing of coca,” in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (Juan Karita/The Associated Press)

As the 25 year deadline loomed, the government of former coca farmer Evo Morales tried to persuade other countries to change the treaty.

Other signatories weren’t willing to change the convention, and the Bolivians weren’t willing to ban coca leaf, so in 2012 they decided on a bold stroke: Bolivia would crash out of the three international drug treaties and then apply to re-enter with its own permanent exemption for coca leaf, now enshrined in a new Bolivian constitution as part of the nation’s Indigenous heritage.

Canada says no

The move was opposed by the US, already deeply suspicious of the leftist president who had banned the Drug Enforcement Administration from his country four years earlier. But objections also came from some of the world’s most progressive countries on drug policy — such as Portugal and the Netherlands — who saw it as a bad-faith way to get around the treaty that would set a dangerous precedent.

“Canada was among a group of 18 states parties to that convention that did not support Bolivia’s proposal at that time,” said Guillaume Berubé of Global Affairs Canada.

But Bolivia had studied the UN rules carefully, and knew its opponents would be unlikely to get one-third of treaty members to raise a protest. Without that, the objections would not stand. And so, by 2013, Bolivia was back in the treaties, now with a permanent exemption for coca leaf.

Today, Canada finds itself in much the same position Bolivia did in 2012 — openly violating the treaties it signed. Its Bolivian objection now looks like hypocrisy.

In the end, said Berubé, Ottawa never formally withdrew its objection.

Bolivia “was successful in re-acceding with a reservation to certain obligations to permit traditional coca leaf practices in its territory. With that step by Bolivia, no further action has been required by states parties with respect to the matter.”

And yet, as the redacted memo shows, Canada was still debating at the highest levels whether to formally withdraw that objection years after Bolivia’s actions.

John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America testified as an expert before the Senate committee that examined the international effects of Canada’s legalization plan.

“They’re interested in finding a solution that reconciles their domestic policy changes — from which they’re not retreating — with their international treaty obligations,” he said. “Getting to that point is the not-easy part.”

Russians lead the charge

Walsh said Canada is facing steady pressure from other signatories to the drug treaties, particularly Russia.

“”For Russia, it’s a tantalizing opportunity not just to bash Canada but to call the West on its hypocrisy on the rules-based international order, and sow divisions among the West, which it sees as antagonistic and oppressive of its interests,” Walsh told CBC News. 

“I think they take some glee in being able to point to Canada and say, ‘The West seeks to impose this rules-based order on us, but when it comes to following their own obligations, they’re à la carte, which is contrary to what international law requires.'”

Russia and Japan led the objections earlier this year when Canada and Uruguay joined a World Health Organization-supported initiative to downgrade cannabis from its Schedule IV classification.

“Because the US has sidelined itself on this issue, Russia sees itself as stepping into the void and has been able to rally a lot of like-minded prohibitionist countries in Africa and Asia,” Walsh said.

Opening Pandora’s box

Russia’s objections may have something to do with scoring points — but they also reflect the country’s very different approach to drug policy.

“The new drug policy of Ottawa contradicts the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,” Vasily Kutlyshev told CBC News on behalf of Russia’s foreign ministry. Under that convention, he said, “the Canadian side is obliged to perform in good faith its international legal obligations and has no right to invoke its internal legislation as a justification for its failure to perform the international treaty.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has acknowledged that the new cannabis law does selectively violate the treaties, although Berube said the approach “is consistent with the overarching goals of the UN drug conventions, namely to protect the health and safety of citizens.”

The Russians aren’t buying that argument.

“The decision adopted by Canada in fact opens the ‘Pandora box’ by introducing [a] selective approach toward the implementation of the UN drug control conventions,” Kutlyshev said.

“There exists real danger that some other countries may follow the example set by Canada, which would lead to the erosion and even dismantling of the whole international legal foundation of our fight against narcotic drugs.”

Legalization spreads

That fear seems to be coming true —at least in the Western Hemisphere, where courts and governments are chipping away at the architecture of prohibition.

“Someone has to go first,” Uruguay’s President José Mujica said in 2013, when his country led the way by fully legalizing marijuana.

In the U.S., marijuana is now fully legal in 11 states and fully illegal in only 10, with medical exemptions or decriminalization statutes in the rest.

Two women smoke cannabis vape pens at a party in Los Angeles on June 8, 2019. (Richard Vogel/The Associated Press)

Several years ago, Walsh said, Canada could have expected intense pressure from Washington not to legalize — but the U.S. has given up its role as world policeman of drug enforcement.

“The International Narcotics Control Board already sees the U.S. as out of compliance,” he said. “Because of the outsized role of the U.S. in insisting on enforcement of the drug treaties, everybody understands the significance of the fact that the U.S. is now sidelined from bludgeoning back against Canada.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of Mexicans are asking why their army continues to uproot plants that are now legal right across the border.

Mexico has not legalized like Uruguay or Canada; it drew the line at decriminalization of personal possession. But it has gone further by applying that decriminalization of personal possession to other drugs, such as cocaine (0.5 grams), heroin (50 milligrams) and methamphetamine (40 mgs).

Colombia was for years the epicentre of the cocaine trade and birthed three of the world’s richest and most powerful drug cartels in the 1980s and 90s.

Today, every Colombian has the right to cultivate up to 20 marijuana plants. In Canada, the limit is four.

Brazil and Ecuador no longer criminally sanction possession of small quantities. Argentina’s Supreme Court has started tossing out convictions for possession of marijuana. Similar court rulings led to Uruguay’s decision to legalize.

Walsh said Ottawa knows “it is a serious matter to be in violation” of the treaties — but “it also knows it faces no immediate material consequences.

“I don’t see Canada backing down, nor do I see Uruguay backing down.”

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‘Looked awesome’: Accused in murder-conspiracy trial says unaware gun prohibited

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – One of two men charged with conspiring to murder RCMP officers at the Coutts, Alta., border blockade two years ago testified Tuesday he wasn’t aware that the custom-made rifle he had purchased was a prohibited weapon.

Chris Carbert said he paid $5,000 for the DPS Panther A15 rifle found under his mattress in an early morning police raid of a trailer in the village the night he was arrested.

Carbert and Anthony Olienick are being tried together before a jury in Court of King’s Bench in Lethbridge.

The two were charged after police made arrests and seized weapons at the blockade in early 2022.

Carbert said he purchased the assault rifle two weeks before the blockade began but hadn’t even sighted the scope for it.

“It says DPS Panther A15. Did you know what kind of gun it was? What I mean by that is…what type of firearm it was?” Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston asked Carbert. “What made it special to you?”

“That it was custom built and just it looked awesome,” Carbert replied.

“Do you know what an AR-15 is?” said Johnston. “I’m going to suggest to you that the reason you paid $5,000 plus another $1,500 for a scope for it is because you knew it was an AR-15. That’s a special gun in Canada.”

“OK, but I didn’t know,” Carbert said.

Carbert has testified he brought guns and body armour to the blockade but said there was no plan for violence unless he had to perhaps flee to the mountains and fend off someone trying to give him a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

He also told the jury that he had little to do with Olienick and others staying in the trailer, that he was “grumpy and sick” as he tried to recover from COVID-19.

Johnston, in a tense exchange with the accused, suggested when Carbert was arrested in the police raid, he did more than just call a lawyer before surrendering. He said Carbert attempted to hide his weapons and had to make a decision.

“You were trying to decide, ‘How do I come out? Do I come with my hands on my head’ or on the trigger of your gun? That’s what you were trying to decide.” said Johnston.

“Definitely not,” Carbert said.

“You were thinking, ‘Is this the war? Is this them coming for me and is this my war?'” Johnston continued.

“Definitely not.”

“Even all that talk that you’ve given us if they came for you out in the mountains.” Johnston said.

“But we’re nowhere near that point, Mr. Johnston,” Carbert said. “They’re not coming to stick a needle in my arm.”

The protest against COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates tied up traffic for two weeks at the Alberta-U.S. border crossing at Coutts.

It ended quickly and peacefully when police seized weapons and made arrests.

Johnston also asked Carbert about a conversation Carbert had with a friend in late 2021 in which he said, “If they think they are coming for my kids they better be prepared because they will likely be leaving in a body bag.”

“Did you say that to him?” Johnston queried.

“Yeah, I said that. I mean I’ve said some colourful things. There’s no doubt about it,” he replied. “I’ve also said if they came to put the vaccine in me and my kid that they weren’t doing it.”

Court has heard Olienick considered the blockade the fight of a lifetime against a government bent on ending individual freedoms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Calgary loosening outdoor water restrictions as extreme heat continues

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EDMONTON – Calgary residents can now turn on their sprinklers for longer as the city swelters under an extreme heat warning.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says outdoor watering restrictions may be fully lifted within days, but for now residents can turn on their hoses for up to two hours twice a week to water grass and outdoor plants.

Michael Thompson, Calgary’s infrastructure services general manager, says operational pump issues have been fixed, but other mechanical problems need to be resolved before the city can give the full green light.

He says the city’s water system is approaching 75 per cent capacity, but how it can meet that demand depends on usage.

Outdoor watering restrictions have been in place since a catastrophic water main break on June 5, with a ban on all outdoor water use loosened last week.

Voluntary restrictions on indoor water use were lifted three weeks ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Tesla’s 2Q profit falls 45% to $1.48 billion as sales drop despite price cuts and low-interest loans

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DETROIT (AP) — Tesla’s second-quarter net income fell 45% compared with a year ago as the company’s global electric vehicle sales tumbled despite price cuts and low-interest financing.

The Austin, Texas, company said Tuesday that it made $1.48 billion from April through June, less than the $2.7 billion it made in the same period of 2023. It was Tesla’s second-straight quarterly net income decline.

Second quarter revenue rose 2% to $25.5 billion, beating Wall Street estimates of $24.54 billion, according to FactSet. Excluding one time items, Tesla made 52 cents per share, below analyst expectations of 61 cents.

Earlier this month Tesla said it sold 443,956 vehicles from April through June, down 4.8% from 466,140 sold the same period a year ago. Although the sales were were better than the 436,000 that analysts had expected, they still were a sign of weakening demand for the company’s aging product lineup.

For the first half of the year, Tesla has sold about 831,000 vehicles worldwide, far short of the more than 1.8 million for the full year that CEO Elon Musk has predicted.

The company’s widely watched gross profit margin, the percentage of revenue it gets to keep after expenses, fell once again to 18%. A year ago it was 18.2%, and it peaked at 29.1% in the first quarter of 2022.

Tesla said it posted record quarterly revenue “despite a difficult operating environment.” The company’s energy-storage business took in just over $3 billion in revenue, double the amount in the same period last year.

Shares of Tesla fell 4% in trading after Tuesday’s closing bell. The shares had been down more than 40% earlier in the year, but have since recovered most of the losses.

Revenue from regulatory credits purchased by other automakers who can’t meet government emissions targets hit $890 million for the quarter, double Tesla’s amount of most previous quarters.

The company reported $622 million in “restructuring and other” expenses for the quarter, when it laid off over 10% of its workforce.

Tesla said in a note to investors that it’s between two major growth waves, with the next one coming through advances in autonomous vehicles and new models. But the company reiterated caution that its sales growth “may be notably lower than the growth rate achieved in 2023.”

The company said plans for new vehicles, including more affordable models, are on track for production to start in the first half of next year. Tesla has hinted at a smaller model costing around $25,000. The models are to be built using some aspects of current vehicles and others from the next-generation underpinnings.

The company said average selling prices for its Models S, X, 3 and Y all dropped due to the price cuts and financing offers. It also said that the Cybertruck became the best selling electric pickup in the U.S. during the quarter.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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