In its latest World Drug Report, the United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs calls for a comprehensive ban on advertising, promoting, or sponsoring cannabis. The report argues that a ban is necessary to protect public health interests over business interests. The concern is that a widespread belief that cannabis isn’t harmful despite increasing potency is “associated with a variety of health and other harms.”
“Aggressive marketing of cannabis products with a high THC content by private firms and promotion through social media channels; can make the problem worse,” the UN officials wrote in their report.
According to the UN, the potency of cannabis has increased by as much as four times over the last 24 years. However, the report may not spur immediate action.
“It wasn’t exactly a unanimous vote—it narrowly passed, with one country moving it forward,” said Deepak Anand, CEO of Materia ventures and one of the Canadian industry’s longest-running commentators on international cannabis business.
The UN and Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in particular, uses more of a consensus approach than a voting approach.
“They do vote on certain things, but generally they’re looking to get consensus on issues. And this is definitely an issue you’re not going to be able to get consensus on from [anti-drug] countries like Russia and China—they’re going to be very much diametrically opposed,” says Anand.
Canada leads the world as the first G7 nation to legalize adult cannabis use for recreational purposes on a national scale. Before Canadian legalization, discussions about decriminalizing cannabis were happening at the state level in the U.S., while other G7 nations were considering the idea as well. For Anand, this indicates that the UN “recognizes this is an issue that can no longer be put off.”
Anand credits the widening acceptance of medical cannabis across many UN nations as another important pressure on the UN to modernize its stance.