The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime released its World Drug Report for 2019, and it called for drug policies that are based on public health.
A Forbes article features exclusive insights from various experts who dissected the 2019 World Drug Report in order to better understand where the U.N. really stands on the matter of cannabis.
First, what is the report all about?
The 2019 World Drug Report highlights some trends, including a boom in synthetic opioid markets, a slight increase in cocaine production, and an increase in overdose fatalities.
The fifth booklet of the report focused on hallucinogens and cannabis, and it dives into the market’s transition amid certain legal changes in some countries.
Forbes notes, though, that since reporting of information is voluntary, much of the data reflects the drug use for less than 50 percent of the participating U.N. Member States. To put it simply, the data is likely incomplete.
Forbes cites Heather Haase, Chair of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs, as saying that it is very much like the U.N. to present only a part of the whole picture.
According to Haase, aside from the information on cultivation trends, the report placed quite a lot of emphasis on the (alleged) increase in cannabis use found in jurisdictions with relaxed cannabis laws.
Does the U.N. support legalizing cannabis?
It has been widely reported by media that the U.N. has shown support for cannabis legalization, or decriminalization at the very least. This assumption can be attributed to World Health Organization’s recommendation that cannabis and its derivatives be rescheduled under international drug treaties.
However, Haase told Forbes that the U.N. is only advocating alternatives to imprisonment in the form of drug courts. This approach is still not transformative or comprehensive enough, she said.
Haase argued that the U.N. has been focusing most of its efforts on prevention and treatment instead of supporting the life-saving reduction of harm.
Potentially flawed statistics?
The 2019 report also shows that cannabis use is quickly rising in North America. However, Forbes says this analysis is potentially flawed as it may not take into account the surge in self-declared weed users as cannabis markets go legal. What they may have tabulated are more of legal cannabis purchases, leaving out illicit ones.
Forbes also cited the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law as stating that in American states where cannabis is legal, there have been upsides: fewer people are being arrested, there is a decline in DWI/WUI arrests for alcohol and other drugs, jobs are created for people instead of arresting them, and no increase in youth consumption rates.
The article points out that cannabis advocates will argue that even if usage goes up, this is not necessarily a negative especially when you look at it in relation to a surge in the use of alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.
U.N.’s report is based on science
Haase complained that this latest report makes a big deal about the level of THC contained in cannabis products.
However, coming in the defense of the report is the anti-cannabis legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). According to SAM president Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., the U.N.’s position is not based on parties or ideologies, but is based on science.
Sabet argued that the science on weed is clear: today’s weed is much more harmful than in the past and it is directly linked to mental issues like schizophrenia and psychosis, as well as to heart problems, dangerous driving, and memory and cognition problems.
He contended that none of the senior scientists at the U.N. think that cannabis legalization is a good thing, and different U.N. bodies have released several reports that have continued to call out the U.S. for its position on marijuana. There is a big difference between legalization and decriminalization, he pointed out.
She believes that what the U.N. is doing is to plant the idea that cannabis legalization is one failed experiment and that it should be reversed. According to her, it will now be up to the NGO community to continue pushing them to present the other side of the equation. Either that or they will present it themselves.