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Marijuana: Pot use declines worldwide, but not in the US

In Seattle this weekend, a school bus rigged up as a food truck will start selling items infused with marijuana. The menu includes truffle popcorn, peanut butter and jelly, and a Vietnamese pork banh mi, reports the Los Angeles Times.

It may become an increasingly typical sight in Washington State, one of two states where the possession and sale of pot for recreational purposes is now legal. (Colorado is the other state.) And it could spread as the trend toward legalizing marijuana continues.

On the November ballot in Oregon and Alaska are measures allowing the sale of recreational marijuana to adults. Meanwhile, Florida voters will decide on a constitutional amendment legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. That would make it the 24th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize medical marijuana.

All of this fits public opinion polls showing greater acceptance of the trend, particularly among younger Americans. But a United Nations report offers a cautionary note.

Use of marijuana around the world is declining, according to the just-released World Drug Report 2014, put out by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

“However, in the United States, the lower perceived risk of cannabis use has led to an increase in its use,” the report states. “At the same time, more people using cannabis are seeking treatment each year.”

This included a 56 percent increase in US marijuana-related emergency room visits between 2006 and 2010, and a 14 percent increase in admission to drug-treatment programs over the same period, the report states.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 9 percent of people who use marijuana become dependent on it – a number that increases to about one in six among those who start using it at a young age, and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.

Meanwhile, the potency of pot has increased over the years due to genetic selection. “Daily use can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago,” the NIH warns.

The UN cites the “risk of heavy dependence, lung problems, memory impairment, psychosocial development problems and mental health problems, and poorer cognitive performance associated with early initiation and persistent use between the early teenage years and adulthood.”

One of the arguments for marijuana legalization has been that, properly controlled by government agencies, it will provide a source of revenue for states. But the cost-benefit ratio may not be entirely clear, the UN reports.

“Based on assumptions regarding the size of the consumer market, it is unclear how legalization will affect public budgets in the short or long term, but expected revenue will need to be cautiously balanced against the costs of prevention and health care,” the report states.

“In addition to the impact on health, criminal justice, and the economy, a series of other effects such as consequences related to security, health care, family problems, low performance, absenteeism, car and workplace accidents and insurance could create significant costs for the state,” the UN report cautions. “It is also important to note that legalization does not eliminate trafficking in that drug. Although decriminalized, its use and personal possession will be restricted by age. Therefore, the gaps that traffickers can exploit, although reduced, will remain.”

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Hugh Stoner on 06/30/2014 - 12:20 pm.

    UN report suspect

    The UN report is proof that you can use someone else’s interpretation of a study to push your own Ideology. Did you look at the study and try report on it or did you read someone else’s article and assume he/she read the report? That’s lazy journalism and you should be ashamed.
    The report says:
    Extent of use
    In 2012, between 125 million and 227 million people were
    estimated to have used cannabis, corresponding to between
    2.7 and 4.9 per cent of the population aged 15-64 years.
    West and Central Africa, North America, Oceania and, to
    a lesser extent, Western and Central Europe remain the
    regions with prevalence rates considerably higher than the
    global average. Over the past five years in North America,
    the largest cannabis herb market, prevalence rates have
    followed an upward trend in the United States153 but
    declined in Canada between 2008 and 2011, increasing
    again between 2011 and 2012.154 Although recent epidemiological
    data from Asia are not available, experts from
    nearly half of the countries in Asia consider cannabis use
    to be increasing in the region.

  2. Submitted by Bill Kellett on 06/30/2014 - 05:04 pm.


    Hugh Stoner calls out Brad Knickerbocker’s journalism skills for this articles lack of accuracy. He didn’t mention that Brad’s affiliation with The Christian Science Monitor which was mentioned at the end of previous articles is missing here.

  3. Submitted by Jay Dee on 06/30/2014 - 09:01 pm.

    More scaremongering.

    Most people don’t use it daily. For those that do, 10-20% of them develop dependence, not 25-50% as claimed here [Borgelt et al., 2013]. Of which none of the symptoms are serious and subside within a few weeks [Danovitch & Gorelick., 2012].

    “Compared to most other drugs … dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare.”
    “A distinctive marijuana and THC withdrawal syndrome has been identified, but it is mild and subtle compared with the profound physical syndrome of alcohol or heroin withdrawal.”
    Joy et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. 1999.

    Withdrawal is rare for medicinal use:

    “The most common side effects of cannabinoids are tiredness and dizziness (in more than 10% of patients), psychological effects, and dry mouth. Tolerance to these side effects nearly always develops within a short time. Withdrawal symptoms are hardly ever a problem in the therapeutic setting.”
    Grotenhermen F, Müller-Vahl K. The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2012. Review.

    The increase in ER visits is mainly due to new reporting procedures. People who just mention past cannabis use are included, it does not mean they were there because of cannabis.

    Greater potency is a good thing since less plant matter needs to be combusted an inhaled to achieve the desired effect. With legalization we will have products marked with potency just as we do with alcohol.

    “It is also important to note that legalization does not eliminate trafficking in that drug”

    In time it seriously reduces it, more than any law, police or military action could. Do people still mainly by alcohol from the likes of Al Capone?

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