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June 28, 2006 - Vancouver Sun (CN BC)

Editorial: UN Drug Report Unintentionally Argues Against Prohibition

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The 2006 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime will, no doubt, convince many people that we haven't been diligent enough in prosecuting the war on drugs, that we have to step up our efforts to eradicate illicit drugs, particularly marijuana.

But the report actually confirms that the war on drugs has been a dismal failure, that it has failed to decrease marijuana use and it has placed users in greater danger.

So great is the threat from marijuana, the UN report authors believe, that they included a separate chapter titled Cannabis -- Why We Should Care, in its annual report.

The chapter explains that 162 million people, or four per cent of the world's adult population, use cannabis annually, and that the number of users worldwide has jumped by 10 per cent since the late 1990s -- a larger increase than for any other drug. Further, the report notes two developments that it thinks should cause policy-makers to rethink their position on cannabis.

First, marijuana potency has "increased dramatically in the last decade" in "the three countries at the vanguard of cannabis breeding and production technology" -- the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. This first development might be a cause of the second, which is that, according to medical evidence, "there has been an increase in acute health episodes" related to marijuana use.

Consequently, the report suggests that many countries have been mistaken in making marijuana a low priority for enforcement.

Now let's look at this evidence more closely. Clearly, we can't blame the rise in marijuana use on a laissez faire attitude toward the drug in Canada -- which, according to a Vancouver city council report, saw the cannabis offence rate rise by nearly 80 per cent between 1992 and 2002 -- or in the U.S., whose tough anti-drug measures need no further comment.

But we can blame the rise in marijuana potency directly on the war on drugs. As the 2002 Senate report, which was ignored by both the current Conservative government and the former Liberal one, explained, growers produce the strongest pot possible because it's easier to trade.

As more draconian laws were passed and enforcement was stepped up, it became more profitable to transport smaller quantities of potent drugs than large amounts of mild ones.

The report even admits that "cannabis breeders in North America and Europe have been working to create more potent cannabis," but it seems unaware that this is a direct result of the criminalization of the drug.

Since marijuana use and potency have both increased during the all-out war on drugs, it's abundantly clear that the war has been a failure. Indeed, the only way to control the purity of the product -- and thereby protect the health of the user -- is through the regulation of the growth and sale of marijuana.

But don't expect to hear that from the UN agency any time soon, because it has been repeatedly bullied by the United States into promoting a prohibitionist ideology toward all recreational drugs.

Regardless of what the agency says, its evidence its clear: The war on marijuana has failed to decrease drug use, and has increased the dangers faced by users.

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