Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Gov’t Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

05.29 Women lead the call to arms as anti-fracking fight intensifies

05.29 Florida brewery creates edible beer holders to save marine life

05.28 Could Alzheimer’s Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts Say

05.28 The Rogue Immune Cells That Wreck the Brain

05.28 Revealed: report for Unesco on the Great Barrier Reef that Australia didn't want world to see

05.28 Trump's climate claims: experts analyze Republican's energy policy remarks

05.27 Trump puts fossil fuels at US energy core [“Stupid is as stupid does.”  —Forrest Gump]

05.27 Teen cancer death rate causes alarm [it's from pollution, of course]

05.27 The west country cheddar maker powered by solar and cow dung

05.27 ExxonMobil is in its climate change bunker and won’t let reality in

News Media Matters

05.27 Journalists blast NY Times for pro-Israel bias and “grotesque” distortion of illegal occupation of Palestine

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

05.29 If you thought one Bernie Sanders was good, how about 100 of him?

05.29 Is Oklahoma trying to be America’s least progressive state? [captives of a fossil fueled economy]

05.29 Poor polls, scandal, a cussed rival ... how it’s all going wrong for Hillary Clinton

05.29 'Racists!' 'Illegals!' 'Scum!': protesters v Donald Trump supporters

05.28 The Stadium Boondoggle Is Migrating to the Suburbs

05.28 Federal Help for Poor Families With Children Is Evaporating [euthanasia might be more humane]

05.28 Bill Maher And Bernie Sanders Take Down ‘Chicken’ Donald Trump [11:24 video]

05.28 Meet the Bernie-Endorsed Law Professor Trying to Unseat the DNC Chair

05.28 Green Party's Jill Stein on the Feminist Case Against Hillary Clinton

05.28 Green Party's Jill Stein on the Feminist Case Against Hillary Clinton

05.28 How America Lost Its Mojo

05.28 Why the Left will divorce Hillary and the new Democratic Party

05.28 Tavis Smiley interviews Bernie Sanders [26:21 video]

05.28 Trump Says No Debate After Sanders Says Networks Interested

05.28 Protesters clash with police outside Donald Trump rally in San Diego [0:44 video]

05.27 Sanders to Trump: Let's Debate in 'Biggest Stadium Possible'

05.27 Sanders’ DNC platform team pushes for Palestinian rights, blasts Israeli war crimes

Justice Matters

05.29 Time to care about damn emails: Hillary Clinton has a serious legal problem

High Crimes?

05.28 Argentina's last military dictator jailed for role in international death squad

Economics, Crony Capitalism

05.29 Economists overwhelmingly reject Brexit in boost for Cameron

05.28 Austerity policies do more harm than good, IMF study concludes

05.27 Revealed: 9% rise in London properties owned by offshore firms

05.27 Bernie Sanders Easily Wins the Policy Debate

International

05.29 A former senior U.S. general again calls for abolishing the nuclear forces he once commanded

05.29 Exclusive: White House Blocks Transfer of Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia

05.29 ‘It's like Florence Nightingale’s time’: South Sudan’s public services collapse

05.29 Refugee crisis: 13,000 people rescued in Mediterranean in one week

05.29 Protests grow as Greece moves refugees to warehouses ‘not fit for animals’

05.29 Over 700 migrants feared dead in Mediterranean this week - UN

05.28 Israeli Ex-Officers Issue Peace Plan, Condemn Gov't Inaction

05.27 Story of cities #future: what will our growing megacities really look like?

05.27 Story of cities #50: the reclaimed stream bringing life to the heart of Seoul

05.27 Riot police crack down on Paris protests against labour reforms

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  UNODC Makes the Case for Ending Cannabis Prohibition--Inadvertently
Newspaper logo

THE UNITED NATIONS' 2006 WORLD DRUG REPORT:

UNODC Makes the Case for Ending Cannabis Prohibition—Inadvertently

by JOHN HICKMAN
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.

What the world press did report was what they were told to report. Rather than actually bother to read the 420 pages of the recently issued 2006 report, reporters gathered their information entirely from the short September 12, 2006 press release issued by the office of UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. They dutifully treated the 59% increase in Afghani opium cultivation and the UNODC chief’s demand for robust military action to destroy it as the important news story.

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 jhickman@berry.edu.



Copyright © 2006 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on September 15, 2006.
 

Public Service Ads: