Reform by subtraction: the path of denunciation of international drug treaties and reaccession with reservations

Int J Drug Policy. 2012 Sep;23(5):401-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2012.04.001. Epub 2012 May 19.


Almost all countries are parties to the international drug conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988. These strongly bind parties with respect to their domestic regulation of controlled substances, including requirements that possession, growing or use be a criminal offense and that any regulated market in the substances be limited to use only for medical or scientific purposes. Even where countries have argued they have "wiggle room", reform within the bounds of the conventions has often resulted in "net-widening" which nullifies the intent of the reform. Among the options for effective reform, probably the most immediately viable is the route of denunciation and reaccession with reservations--the route which Bolivia has now taken in order to legalise a regulated domestic market in coca leaves for chewing. The paper considers the existing record of reservations (by more than 30 parties to each of the conventions). Also discussed are the options for response to the reservations by other parties, which vary between the treaties, and how pursuing the option of denunciation and reaccession with reservation might potentially play out.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bolivia
  • Coca / chemistry
  • Controlled Substances / adverse effects*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Plant Leaves
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*


  • Controlled Substances