Side Event: Experience with Cannabis Legalization

Stig-Erik Sorheim, Drug Policy Futures | We represent around 50 partners around the world and some regional/national networks.


Kevin Sabet, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) | We do not believe in incarceration or punishment, but we do not believe in legalisation either. We believe in cannabis research. In the US, states are implementing projects that lead to the commercialisation and promotion of cannabis. Our worry is Big Marijuana. We don’t believe in the normalisation of cannabis. We believe models like Uruguay’s cannot be put in the same bag as the legal regulation taking place in the United States. Many more initiatives will be in ballots or legislatures next year.

20% of cannabis users consume 76% of the product. We think this frequent use is problematic.

Worry about the increased potency of cannabis, products marketed for young people.

Medical cannabis and decriminalisation continued in Colorado into legalisation.

Legalisation in the US equals commercialisation and tends to be captured by the industry.


Fred Nyberg, Uppsala University | Many of the positive effects of marijuana relate to the CB2 receptor. Science might be able to produce antagonists to avoid the euphoria mediated by the CB1 receptor, which also leads to negative side effects. All drugs affect brain plasticity. Marijuana can lead to heart attacks and heart failure.

Brain maturation is only achieved after the 20s.  Psychosocial capacities develop until then. Cannabis activates CB1 receptors in regions associated with complex cognitive functions.

Most teenagers eager to engage in creative revolt. Most people developing substance dependence started in their teens.

Cannabis use can lead to: impaired cognition, impaired coordination and motor function, mental disturbance and addiction.

Marijuana users do not realise their memory is being affected.

Heavy users exhibit an impaired ability to respond to dopamine stimulators.

Science is not ideological. There are risks to start using cannabis on your teens.


Eze Eluchie, PADDI Foundation | Impact of cannabis on the Global South (not geographical but complex definition based on socio-cultural, economic factors). Some countries and legislatures are going against the breaching of Conventions. Challenges for the Global South: Emerging economies facing challenges, young populations, weak state and regulatory institutions, poor infrastructure. Overwhelmed by health challenges. Still grappled by tobacco harms. Imagine unleashing a new epidemic – cannabis.

Cannabis: most trafficked, commonly produced, used and seized.

  • Legalising will double, triple or quadruple harms.
  • Legalisation disturbs international legal order, the integrity of states,
  • Legalisation will increase risk of Global South youth to substance dependence, as these countries have younger populations.
  • Impairing the IQ will deepen economic underdevelopment.

We oppose the decriminalisation of drug use.


Erik Leijonmarck, ECAD | Before drug control, there was a drug consumption epidemic. We risk going back to it.


Q&A |

Q: The evidence of cannabis preparations to treat illnesses such as Dravet syndrome is consistent and robust.

Q: There are strains that are balanced between CBD & THC and they’re less harmful; and if we regulate them we can control the chemical compositions of the strains to favour the safest.
A:  Fred Nyberg – That is ideology, not science.

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