Statement from SAM Canada on the Canadian Statement to the UN General Assembly on April 20, 2016
Contact Pamela McColl
We are greatly disappointed that Canada used its precious time on the global stage to promote the legalization – and thus commercialization – of cannabis. This statement sent a powerful message from our government that profits come ahead of public health.
Not mentioned was the global call among scientists this week that cannabis harms should be widely publicized. This new call to action has been released from scientists around the world, reflecting “a growing consensus among experts that frequent cannabis use can increase the risk of psychosis in vulnerable people and lead to a range of other medical and social problems. ” according to the The Guardian. It was reported that researchers now believe the evidence for harm is strong enough to issue clear warnings. This is in line with a recent World Health Organization report on the harms of cannabis.
Legalizing cannabis creates the potential for broad scale development, manufacture, and marketing of marijuana products.
This dynamic becomes even more pernicious when coupled with the higher addiction rates among underage marijuana users. One of the best ways to develop and capture heavy users is to encourage use at the earliest age possible, when dependence is more likely to develop. This mirrors business strategy by the multi-billion-dollar tobacco industry
It is therefore no surprise that the marijuana industry is borrowing another page from the tobacco playbook by marketing colorful, kid-friendly edible marijuana products. These “edibles,” such as the ones shown below—including marijuana-laced candies, lollipops, gummy bears, and sodas—already account for roughly 50% of the Colorado marijuana market.
Additionally, these market dynamics explains the marijuana industry’s efforts to drive potency of its products as high as possible. As noted earlier, the average potency of smoked marijuana has increased at least six-fold since the 1960s (to around 14% in the US), with edibles and concentrates pushing the rate even higher, up to 95%. The industry has also opposed recent attempts to cap potency at 15% in Colorado.
And the effects of legalization in Colorado have been devastating from a public health perspective. A report from the state of Colorado released this week highlighted their immense challenges.
As a network of more than 300 NGOs have said this week at the UN, we need to prevent, not promote, drug use and addiction. Instead of promoting the use of a dangerous drug, this is what should have been Canada’s theme too.