With Washington State and Colorado opening the door to legal recreational marijuana use, a United Nations report has been published which takes issue with this drift towards legalization.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an arm of the U.N. charged with overseeing cooperation with international drug treaties, expressed concern over laws in Uruguay and the U.S. which make use of cannabis legal. The Board refers to these laws as “misguided initiatives” which stand in direct opposition to current worldwide drug conventions.
The Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2013 commented directly on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado which, it says, has increased the number of drugged driving accidents, as well as the number of admissions for marijuana-related drug treatment.
INCB Presedent Raymond Yans urges national governments to look at drug policy through a wide angle lens. What is best for the health of the country as a whole? The science behind medical marijuana is sketchy and is seen by the U.N. group as dangerous to public health. Although the U.S. has permitted states to approve marijuana for medical use there is no solid research showing it to have legitimate medical applications. Since the INCB was created to help safeguard public health, these initiatives strike close to home.
United States drug policy impacts the world
It’s important that world leaders hang together on drug policy, says Yans, because any chink in the armor will be exploited by illegal drug traffickers. Of course, one of the major arguments put forward by proponents of legalization is that it’s the best way to circumvent illegal drug cartels. Putting the government in charge of regulation will “clean up” the marijuana drug trade, say supporters. The INCB report argues that governments will instead be creating “alternative drug regimes.”
The INCB report used tobacco and alcohol as examples of how legalization and government oversight fails to actually clean up or resolve issues. According to the report, black market tobacco sales account for 20% of all tobacco sales in the U.K. and make up a more significant 33% of all Canadian sales. The report further points out that arrests for alcohol use outnumber those for illegal drugs in the U.S. Making alcohol legal makes it more appealing, and therefore more used than substances which remain internationally outlawed.
Critics of the INCB position say that the U.N. is lagging behind world opinion when it comes to marijuana. The world is ready, say critics, for a global discussion about marijuana. The INCB policy is in need of reform and moves by Uruguay and the U.S. highlight that need.
Meanwhile, the INCB report talked about the problem of prescription drug abuse in America, suggesting that stronger measures need to be put in place to stem the epidemic. And it also made mention of the poppy trade in Afghanistan, which saw an amazing 36% increase between 2012-2013. Poppy is used to make heroin, a drug expected to replace prescription opioids in terms of abuse in the coming years. The report also made mention of Afghanistan’s marketing of cannabis resin, which is another troubling trend.
The INCB report should remind Americans that we shouldn’t view our national discussion about drugs and legalization as affecting only us. The world has to join hands to form a net against drug abuse. Any holes in that net are exactly where all the negative and illicit elements associated with drugs flow. At the moment, the U.S. and Uruguay represent the first tears in that net.