For the first time since the beginning of the war on drugs, the US appears ready to allow other countries to relax their approaches to illicit substances.

In a little-noticed October 9 press conference, Assistant Secretary of State for Drugs and Law Enforcement Bill Brownfield acknowledged that the UN Drug Control Conventions, the pillar of international drug laws, should be reinterpreted to allow more policy flexibility. “The first of them was drafted and enacted in 1961,” he said. “Things have changed since 1961.”

Brownfield specified that the treaties should “tolerate different national drug policies, to accept the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches; other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.”

Brownfield spent a lot of time specifically discussing marijuana legalization in Colorado, Washington state, and Uruguay. “How could I,” he said, “a representative of the Government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”

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