Today, the United Nations quasi-judicial drug policy body, the International Narcotics Control Board, released a scathing report chiding countries who have legalized marijuana and outlining the problems marijuana poses to the health and well-being of youth worldwide.
“This report is a bombshell,” said Kevin Sabet. “It is significant that the UN is calling out individual countries for their lax marijuana policies. They are sending a message that marijuana cannot be legalized in line with the international treaties. The expansion of Philip Morris/Altria into global marijuana markets is not going unnoticed.”
The report states that: “The decrease in the perceived risks of cannabis use and active social marketing of cannabis by the cannabis industry presents major challenges in preventing cannabis use among young people. Unsubstantiated claims about the medical benefits of cannabis have been accompanied by reductions in the perceived risks of using cannabis among young people in the United States. “
It also finds that the expansion of poorly regulated “medical” marijuana programs in the United States has resulted in increased normalization of the use of the drug for non-medical purposes, which has led to public health harms. Additionally, according to the report, “medical” marijuana programs have laid the groundwork for recreational markets that fail to control the production and supply of the drug, thus flouting international drug treaties.
“Legislators considering legalizing marijuana in their state would be well served to heed the findings of this report,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “The rush to legalize high potency marijuana and the claims of its miracle cures are running far ahead of scientific evidence and sending the message to our nation’s young people that use of the drug is normal and safe. Effective drug policy should aim to reduce harmful drug use, not encourage and commercialize it.”
The report went on to say that marijuana use in states that have legalized the drug “may encourage adolescents to use the drug at a time when their brains are especially vulnerable to its adverse effects.” As we know from a multitude of studies conducted with low potency marijuana, adolescent use of marijuana can lead to early onset of severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and psychosis, issues with memory, and even a permanent loss of up to eight IQ points.
Additionally, the report points to the lessons learned from alcohol and tobacco which show us that legalization leads to a normalization of use and reduced perceived risk, leading to increased use among young people. Even further, the report undercuts arguments made by legalization advocates that a regulated market keeps marijuana out of the hands of minors by pointing to the numerous examples of pot shops being caught selling to minors.