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11.20 Keystone XL pipeline decision: what's at stake and what comes next? [the public's water is at risk]
11.19 'My eyes are burning': Delhi holds half marathon despite pollution warning [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]
11.16 Special Report from the Occupied Forest: Meet Activists Fighting Europe’s Largest Open-Pit Coal Mine [video, audio clip & transcript]
11.15 Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan [this Administration has been perfectly wrong about everything]
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11.17 'Time to Raise Hell': Internet Defenders Mobilize as FCC Aims to Kill Net Neutrality Within Month [decreasing regulation will increase monopoly power of large Cable and Telecom broadband providers enabling distortions of Internet content benefiting the higher bidder]
11.17 'Say Goodbye to Local Media,' as Trump FCC Opens Corporate Merger Floodgates [decreasing regulation will increase monopoly power of large News and Entertainment providers enabling distortions of media content benefiting the higher bidder]
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11.15 Roy Moore challenged Alabama law that protects rape victims, documents reveal [Hideous is as hideous does...]
11.15 'Disgusting': Senate Republicans' Tax Plan Will Scrap Obamacare Mandate [tax-cuts for the super-rich are more important than the health and lives of 13 million poor people]
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11.20 Monaco builds into the Med to house new throng of super-rich [Can we ever have laws to fully prosecute $Billionaire tax dodgers if the courts and government are bribed? If not, can we have a civilized anarchy instead?]
International & Futurism
11.20 Zimbabwe is not the banana republic of western fancy. After Mugabe, it can thrive [let's all pretend like he really did resign...] [when it's safe, create and grow a government sovereign wealth fund with national mineral wealth mining profits—like Norway did—to facilitate becoming a stronger society, improve public services and build a world-class economy]
THE UNITED NATIONS' 2006 WORLD DRUG REPORT:
UNODC Makes the Case for Ending Cannabis Prohibition—Inadvertently
That “news coverage” is often nothing more than regurgitated news releases is hardly news. But completely missing a big story is news.Official documents issued by the United Nations are often dull enough to induce sleep. Despite dealing with the most important of policy issues, U.N. documents normally rival the official publications of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or the Federal Register as soporifics. Begin reading any randomly selected document issued by one of the many U.N. departments and offices and before long your eyes will probably glaze over and sleep softly beckon. That’s probably why the world press missed the chance to report that the United Nations Office of Drug Control, or UNODC, had inadvertently made the case for ending cannabis prohibition in its 2006 World Drug Report.
That “news coverage” is often nothing more than regurgitated news releases is hardly news, of course. But completely missing a big story is news.
Granted, this year’s 6,100-ton Afghani opium harvest does deserve public attention. Poppy farmers in the southern provinces of Afghanistan have produced a bumper crop that will result in more heroin for sale around the world, and their runaway success signals the incompetence of the President Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul. This is bad news, but hardly surprising news. Afghanistan watchers remember the jaw-dropping increase in opium production reported two years ago in the UNODC’s Afghanistan Opium Survey 2004. That too indicated nation-building in Afghanistan was a bust.
Had a single member of the world press read the ironically entitled “Cannabis: Why We Should Care” section in the middle of the 2006 World Drug Report, they might have scooped their colleagues with the discovery that the report’s authors had inadvertently laid out a convincing case for ending prohibition. After offering a plaintive appeal to treat cannabis cultivation and consumption as serious problems, this section of the report systematically undermines the logic of doing so.
After stipulating that cannabis is a relatively harmless and inexpensive intoxicant, the report presents statistics that the drug is grown and consumed everywhere and in very impressive quantities. Based on public polling data from 134 countries, the report explains that an estimated 4% of humanity enjoys the planet’s most popular illicit drug. There are good reasons to think that figure is an undercount. The authors admit that their estimates of quantities consumed make the 4% figure too low. What is more, given the entirely understandable reluctance of respondents in many societies to answer pollsters' questions about their illicit drug use, the survey's findings are probably too conservative. For example, only 3.5% of the respondents in a 2003 poll in Cambodia and only 1.1% of the respondents in a 2002 poll in Mexico said they used cannabis. Something about those numbers smells funny.
Still, 4% of humanity is 162 million people. To see that in perspective, note that if cannabis users comprised a single nation, it would have the sixth largest national population on the planet.
The highest rates of cannabis use are reported in Oceania. Papua New Guinea tops the list of countries with 29.5% of the population using cannabis, followed closely by Micronesia with 29.1%. The lowest rates are reported in East Asia. Only 0.1% of the Japanese and 0.5% of Taiwanese reportedly indulge.
After Oceania, the next highest rates were reported in North America, followed by West Africa and the Caribbean. Interestingly, the percentage range for the Anglo-Saxon countries is narrow. Canadians and Britons admit to using cannabis at rates of 16.8% and 10.8% respectively, with Australians, New Zealanders and Americans falling in between.
Presentation of cross-national price data and discussions of quality in the text seem to suggest that the authors might have intended to undermine the appeal to take prohibition more seriously. For example, readers learn that the herb is pricey in Japan, at almost $35 per gram, but relatively inexpensive in Kazakhstan, where “as much as 400,000 hectares of cannabis grow wild.” “Swaziland is known for producing high-quality cannabis,” according to the report, while, “Malawi is...world renowned for the quality of its cannabis.”
The authors go on to describe cannabis as an industry that is both enormous in scale and extraordinarily decentralized. The North America market may be worth anywhere from $10 billion to $60 billion annually. That’s a difference equivalent to the gross national incomes of either Nigeria or Ukraine. What’s more, nearly all of this cultivation takes place on small concealed plots so numerous that suppression of cultivation is futile.
In a world challenged by mass poverty, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and Islamist terrorism, what sense does it make to expend scarce government resources on enforcing the unenforceable?Confronted with the evidence that a relatively inexpensive and harmless recreational drug continues to be consumed by at least 1 in 25 people on the planet, and that it is supplied by a vast army of small growers the value of whose total economic activity is enormous, ought to make even the most diehard pot prohibitionist hesitate. Cannabis prohibition is a failed policy. In a world challenged by mass poverty, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and Islamist terrorism, what sense does it make to expend scarce government resources on enforcing the unenforceable?
Unless you are member of the world press, the answer is obvious. If you are a member of the world press, you’ll have to wait for the press release.
John Hickman is associate professor of comparative politics at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. His published work on electoral politics, media, and international affairs has appeared in Asian Perspective, American Politics Research, Comparative State Politics, Contemporary South Asia, Contemporary Strategy, Current Politics and Economics of Asia, East European Quarterly, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Jouvert, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Science, Review of Religious Research, Women & Politics, and Yamanashigakuin Law Review. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story was published on September 15, 2006.