International Narcotics Control Board expresses concern over the trend to legalize non-medical use of cannabis, which contravenes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
In its 2022 Annual Report, the International Narcotics Control Board:
– notes that the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs classified cannabis as highly addictive and liable to abuse, and that any non-medical or non-scientific use of cannabis contravenes the Convention;
– expresses concern that this trend among a small number of governments is leading to higher consumption, negative health effects and psychotic disorders;
– notes with concern that the growing cannabis industry advertises products, particularly to young people, in ways that lower the perception of risk involved in using them;
– finds the impact of legalizing cannabis on society difficult to measure because legislative models vary from country to country and data is still limited;
– voices concern that many countries continue to have difficulties procuring enough controlled substances for medical treatment, including during emergency situations;
– highlights that countries are confiscating a high number of non-scheduled chemicals and designer precursors used in illicit drug manufacture and is concerned about the global spread of these substances.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is warning in its Annual Report 2022 that legalizing the non-medical use of cannabis, which contravenes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, seems to result in higher consumption and a lower perception of risk, especially among young people.
Legalizing the use of cannabis results in higher consumption and lowers risk perception
The most concerning effect of cannabis legalization is the likelihood of increased use, particularly among young people, according to estimated data. In the United States, it has been shown that adolescents and young adults consume significantly more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized compared to other states where recreational use remains illegal. There is also evidence that general availability of legalized cannabis products lowers the perception of risk and of the negative consequences involved in using them. New products, such as edibles or vaping products marketed in appealing packaging have increased the trend. INCB finds that this has contributed to a trivialization of the impacts of cannabis use in the public eye, especially among young people.
INCB President Jagjit Pavadia said: “The expanding cannabis industry is marketing cannabis-related products to appeal to young people and this is a major cause for concern as is the way the harms associated with using high-potency cannabis products are being played down.”
Higher medical emergencies and traffic accidents in states where cannabis use is legal
In all jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalized, data show that cannabis-related health problems have increased. Between 2000 and 2018, global medical admissions related to cannabis dependence and withdrawal increased eight-fold. Admissions for cannabis related psychotic disorders have quadrupled worldwide.
Young people, whose brains are still developing, are particularly affected by negative health effects of habitual cannabis use. This can impact their educational outcomes and social behaviour. Statistical evidence from Colorado (United States) shows that fatal traffic accidents with drivers under the influence of cannabis nearly doubled from 2013 to 2020
Have Governments achieved their stated objectives for legalizing cannabis?
The main objective stated by Governments for legalizing cannabis has been to reduce criminal activities and increase public health and safety.