I took the liberty to type up this article, taken from the front page of the Vancouver Sun, Tues June 27th.
UN: POTENT POT NO SOFT DRUG
Report says the effects of Canada's cannabis now rival those of cocaine, heroin.
By: Chad Skelton
The increasing potency of marijuana - spurred on by hydroponic growers in places such as B.C. - means the world should no longer consider pot a "soft" drug, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations.
"Today, the harmful characteristics of cannabis are no longer that different from those of other plant-based drugs such as cocaine and heroin," Antonio Maria Costa, director of the UN's Office on Drugs and Crimes, said in a written statement.
Each year, the UN produces a World Drug Report that surveys drug production and consumption worldwide.
While this year's report covers everything from opium production in Afghanistan to cocaine consumption in Europe, it takes specific aim at marijuana in a section titled, "Cannabis: Why We Should Care."
The report argues that marijuana is by far the most popular drug in the world, with about 162 million users every year compared to just 16 million for opiates, and 13 million for cocaine.
And the number of marijuana users worldwide has jumped by more than 10 percent since the late 1990s - a larger increase than for any other illicit drug.
"The cannabis pandemic, like other challenges to public health, requires....a consistent commitment across the political spectrum and by society at large," Costa said in his statement.
The substance in marijuana that produces its effect is tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC.
The UN Report argues that the increasing popularity of indoor-grown, hydroponic marijuana in recent decades has caused the THC level in marijuana to more than double in many parts of the world.
The UN report acknowledges that marijuana is different from heroin and cocaine - noting it is almost impossible to overdose on it and, because it is so cheap, its users are far less likely to commit crimes to feed their habits.
But the report argues marijuana is still a dangerous substance that requires attention.
"Cannabis is not the harmless herb often portrayed, but a psycho-active drug that deserves to be taken seriously," the report states.
While marijuana remains illegal in virtually all countries, the report states there is a "global blind-spot" with many nations making the drug a low priority for enforcement.
The report does not single out which countries it believes have taken a lenient approach to pot.
But the Netherlands has long tolerated marijuana use and Canada took steps under the former Liberal government to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug.
Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, said while marijuana can have negative effects on its users, it is less harmful than many other substances - both legal and illegal.
"When you place it alongside alcohol, tobacco, cocaine and heroin - I think those drugs are more dangerous," he said.
And Boys questioned whether the increased THC content of pot is really cause for concern.
One of the biggest health risks of marijuana use, he said, is the inhaling of smoke from joints - which can cause lung problems similar to those experienced by cigarette smokers. The more THC in a joint, Boyd said, the less the user needs to smoke to get the same effect - making them more healthy, not less.
The UN report states that Canada produces an estimated 900 to 2,400 metric tonnes of marijuana a year - and supplies about 12 percent of all the marijuana in the U.S.
But that pales in comparison to the world's largest producers of pot, including Morocco (98,000 tonnes a year), Afghanistan (50,000), Mexico (10,400) and the U.S. (4,455).