The UN has just issued a report about cannabis that will no doubt in the near future look as alarmist as it is dated. Namely, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has issued its annual world drug report.
Here are the high level takeaways—which are hard to read with a straight face.
- Legalizing cannabis appears to increase regular use of the drug. No kidding. When someone can buy something legitimately rather than risking criminalization via black market purchases, chances are that they will buy more of it. That said, even the UNODC had to admit that the prevalence of cannabis use among teenagers “has not changed much.” In fact, legalization (in Canada and the U.S.) not to mention the semi-legit markets in places like Holland, have not suddenly seen an uptick in use by underage individuals.
- The Pandemic (unsurprisingly) also increased usage. The world has just gone through an unprecedented shock the likes of which had not been seen in a century. It is no surprise that the use of a drug that lowers anxiety and alleviates many kinds of mental stress and illness might increase.
- Cannabis is “getting stronger” with regards to THC content. This is a bugbear. Yes, there are some strains available in the new commoditized market that might have a higher level of THC than outdoor guerrilla grown skunk by hippies back in the day. There are also widely used strains of cannabis with deliberately lower levels of THC. This is another aged spectre of prohibition that long ago outlived its shelf life.
- Both cocaine production and U.S.-based opioid deaths hit new records. This may be true, but it has little to do with cannabis legalization or use. In fact, the association in the UNODC report is what is alarming. Cannabis is increasingly being seen in legitimate medical circles as a gateway drug off of other, more harmful substances. Not a gateway to them.
- “The proportion of people with psychiatric disorders and suicides associated with regular cannabis use has increased.” Don’t let this kind of anti-cannabis propaganda scare you, even if it is emanating from the UN. There is no link between mental illness, much less suicides from regular cannabis use. In fact, for many people suffering from both physical and psychiatric disorders, like depression and PTSD, cannabis use considerably relieves the stressors that lead to self-destructive behavior.
The most recent study to examine such issues, emanating from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last year had to concede that they could not “establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study,” and that “these associations warrant further research.” The same study also noted that cannabis use by adults more than doubled in the United States between 2008 and 2019—precisely the years that normalization became a multi-state campaign politically.
It is also worth noting that one of the most recent studies about cannabis and PTSD, which includes episodes of depression leading to suicide, found that cannabis use dramatically decreased PTSD symptoms to the point that many patients no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the condition.
Veterans are perhaps the population most at risk for suicide, even in the best of times. According to most national estimates, there are 22 veteran suicides a day in the U.S. Deployed veterans serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan had a suicide risk 41% higher than the average population. Even more intriguingly, non-deployed veterans had a 61% greater risk of committing suicide than the average person.
It is also worth noting that economic and other conditions since 2008 have actually worsened for many people—from the overhang of the global recession to a flat recovery.
COVID-19 was just a piece of icing on an already overburdened cake.
Using cannabis to help relieve some of these symptoms seems like a very sane, logical, and increasingly legal option.
Global Scare Tactics and Propaganda
While it is unsurprising that UNODC would produce this kind of report, even after the UN moved cannabis to a list of less dangerous drugs, including an apparent parroting of highly suspect U.S. government data, it is a telling development. This is the same kind of distortion and misapplied association that dragged prohibition out as long as it has.
Using a drug’s legalization combined with a disastrously disconnecting event like a global Pandemic to make unfounded associations about cannabis use is disingenuous to say the least.
To appear to parrot a U.S. national study which reached similar conclusions while being equally light on the data and association front is just another sign that the UN is still overwhelmingly influenced by U.S. policymakers—and anti-reform ones at that—who will stop at nothing to try and halt the green tide of change.
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