When a European country as important as Germany prepares the way to legalize the cannabisan organ of the UN warned this Thursday that this policy increases consumption among young people, does not reduce the illegal market or crime and, in general, is harmful to public health.
In recent years, Uruguay, Canada, Malta and 19 US states have approved the recreational use of cannabis, a global trend that is growing despite being prohibited by international drug treaties.
In response to this situation, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the body of the UN which ensures compliance with the international conventions on drugs, shows in its most recent report, released today in Vienna, its concern about the dangers it sees behind legalization.
The use of cannabis, the most popular drug in the world with some 209 million consumers, is only allowed in the treaties for medical and scientific research, but in no case for recreational purposes.
The INCB, which is defined as an organ “quasi-judicial” made up of 13 experts, has received criticism in the past from some NGOs for its conservative view of this matter, since it is the guardian of the current anti-drug treaties.
A MILLIONAIRE BUSINESS…
The Board maintains that behind the current international current in favor of legalization is the lobbying of an industry that moves tens of billions of dollars a year.
“The booming cannabis industry markets products to appeal to young people, which is a matter of great concern, as is how the harms associated with high-potency cannabis use are minimized.”warns the president of the INCB, India Jagjit Pavadia.
In the US, according to the INCB, the legal sale of cannabis-derived products is one of the fastest growing industries, with a turnover of around 25 billion dollars in 2021, 43% more than the previous year.
The Board’s report indicates that the effect “More worrying about the legalization of cannabis is the probability that consumption will increase, especially among young people.”
In the US, the INCB considers that it has been proven that adolescents and young adults consume much more cannabis in states that have legalized its sale compared to other territories where it remains illegal.
The average consumption among the population over 12 years of age in the US states where cannabis was legalized was 24.55%, according to 2020 data, while in the territories where its sale was illegal it stood at 16.46%.
At the same time, it ensures that the legal availability of marijuana decreases the perception of risks associated with its consumption.
“New products like edibles or vaporizers marketed in flashy packaging have increased that trend. The INCB considers that this has contributed to trivializing the effects of cannabis use in public opinion, especially among young people.” the meeting concludes.
In the case of Uruguay, it is noted that it is the most restrictive regulation model for the sale of cannabis. The report, however, does not generally offer a detailed analysis of the increase in cannabis use in countries that legalized consumption, and limits itself to showing, in many cases, data without elaboration or contextualization.
Pavadia acknowledged to reporters that there were big problems with the lack of data, but he felt that the existing studies clearly supported the INCB’s concerns about the legalization of cannabis.
…AND A HARMFUL DRUG
Experts maintain that in all places where cannabis has been legalized, an increase in health problems related to its use has been detected.
Between 2000 and 2018, global cannabis-related medical admissions multiplied eightfold, while therapies for psychotic disorders for this drug have also quadrupled.
Cannabis use is especially harmful to young people and can have a negative impact on their educational results and their social behaviour, warns the INCB.
Another piece of information provided by the report is that in Colorado, one of the US states where consumption was legalized in 2012, fatal traffic accidents involving drivers under the influence of cannabis almost doubled between 2013 and 2020.
Finally, the INCB considers that another of the objectives with which it argued in favor of legalization has not been achieved: reducing the illicit economy and crime.
The illegal cannabis market, according to the INCB, continues at high levels in all places where it has been legalized and accounts for 40% in Canada, almost 50% in Uruguay and reaches 75% in the US state of California.
“The data indicates that the legalization of cannabis has failed to deter young people from using cannabis, and illicit markets persist,” says the Board.
Finally, the INCB requests that the effects of cannabis use on individuals and its effect on society should be further studied before taking long-term decisions.
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