At a side event to the Commission for Narcotic Drugs, the Beckley Foundation sponsored Global Cannabis Commission outed the elephant in the room as cannabis, the most used narcotic drug and that which props up the international control system.
A review of the evidence on the limited harms and relative harms of cannabis was presented as were the findings of the study that cannabis may be a little more potent now than previously but that the effects of this are confounded by changes in the patterns of use.
A key finding presented was that cannabis control policies, whether liberal or draconian, have little influence on the prevalence of consumption, and have been unable to make the drug prohibitively expensive and that illegal markets worth tens of billions of dollars to organise crime subsist and sustain significant levels of violence in certain countries at the same time as enforcement causing harms to those arrested.
The Commission then suggested various future options for reform – including: prohibition with cautioning or diversion (depenalisation); prohibition with civil penalties (decriminalisation); and partial prohibition – and traced the two approaches by which such reform could be brought about: de facto legalisation and de jure legalisation.
The Commission presented the most straight forward path for individual countries wishing to consider reform as denouncing the international conventions and re-acceding with a reservation for cannabis.
In the discussion which followed, a Ugandan delegate questioned the link between cannabis and hiv aids but the representative from St Lucia, also a practising doctor, explained that there were no increased behavioural risk factors associated with cannabis use that could lead to hiv aids and that although there could be issues of suppressed immune associated with cannabis use, studies were yet to be undertaken, and this was unlikely to be equal, let alone greater, than the link with alcohol use.
Academics presented the findings of their study,