Monday, March 21, 2005

WTO could succeed where reformers have failed

Slate posts Tim Wu's most interesting theory on how the World Trade Organization could become drug policy reform's best friend. Wu points out "last November the WTO declared American gambling enforcement an 'illegal barrier to trade in services.' The fate of these gambling laws may be a guide to the future of American marijuana laws."

He speculates that under the WTO's "National Treatment" and "Beef Hormone" principles meaning their insistence that foreign and domestic products be treated equally and that any bans must be based on "good science," the prohibition of marijuana could successfully be overturned under trade law. He makes a cogent argument and as he notes, the WTO is the one international body that Bush obeyed on their decision rescinding protections for American steel. Of course it may take a while.
In order for the WTO to consider the legality of U.S. drug laws, some country would have to bring a WTO complaint against the United States. Don't expect a case tomorrow, but it may just be a matter of time. An increasing number of countries including Belgium, Holland, and Canada have begun to allow licensed growing of marijuana, and today's growers will be tomorrow's exporters.
By any estimate, the US offers a multi-billion dollar market for marijuana. One can only hope the money will prove enough an incentive for some country to bring the action that finally ends this anti-reefer madness.


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