News

Puff, puff, pass: More Americans are smoking pot

Puff, puff, pass: More Americans are smoking pot

SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM:In December, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana, a pioneering social experiment aimed at wresting the business from criminals that will be closely watched by others debating drug liberalization. Photo: Associated Press

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) – More Americans are consuming cannabis as their perception of the health risks declines, the U.N. drugs and crime agency said on Thursday, suggesting legalization may further increase its use among the young.

In a finding that could feed into an international debate on the decriminalize of marijuana, it said more people around the world, including in North America, were seeking treatment for cannabis-related disorders.

It was still too early to understand the impact of recent legalization moves in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado and the South American country of Uruguay, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its 2014 World Drug Report.

However, for youth and young adults “more permissive cannabis regulations correlate with decreases in the perceived risk of use”, which in turn may affect consumption, the report said.

Research suggests that declining risk perception and increased availability can lead to wider use and to more young people being introduced to the drug, the UNODC said.

Global cannabis use seemed to have decreased, it said, reflecting a decline in some European countries.

“However, in the United States, the lower perceived risk of cannabis use has led to an increase in its use,” UNODC said, without specifying what may have caused this change.

Voters in Washington and Colorado in 2012 became the first in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana, but U.S. federal laws still prohibit sales.

Citing statistics from before the new rules took effect, the UNODC said the number of people in the United States aged 12 or more who used cannabis at least once in the previous year rose to 12.1 percent in 2012 from 10.3 percent in 2008.

“WAR ON DRUGS”

Regarding other narcotics, a surge in opium production in Afghanistan – where the area under cultivation jumped by 36 percent in 2013 – was “a setback”, while the global availability of cocaine fell as production declined from 2007 to 2012.

Last year, the worldwide output of heroin “rebounded to the high levels witnessed” in 2008 and 2011, UNODC added. “Up to 200,000 people die every year due to illicit drugs,” UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov said in a statement.

In December, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana, a pioneering social experiment aimed at wresting the business from criminals that will be closely watched by others debating drug liberalization.

Critics say legalization will not only increase consumption but open the door to the use of harder drugs than marijuana.

“Although the general public may perceive cannabis to be the least harmful illicit drug, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of persons seeking treatment for cannabis use disorders over the past decade,” the UNODC said.

But with the U.S.-led war on drugs facing mounting criticism, success in Uruguay could fuel legalization momentum elsewhere.

In a joint statement, a group of non-governmental organizations, including New York-based Open Society Foundations and Release in London, called on governments to put an end to “the expensive and counter-productive” anti-drugs war.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

‘Johnny Football’ has a month to win Browns QB job

manziel

Johnny Manziel has found instant popularity since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, but will have to wait until to find out if he has the starting quarterback job.

in National

U.S. courts deliver conflicting rulings on Obamacare

obamacare

A U.S. appeals court threw out a federal regulation that implements key subsidies that are vital to the health care overhaul.

in National

Armed bandits steal $181K from Atlantic City casino

casino

A manhunt is underway for masked robbers who stole $181,000 from Caesar's Atlantic City casino in New Jersey.

in National, World

Airlines halt flights to Israel

plane

Delta, American, and United have halted flights to Israel to ensure passenger safety as the turmoil in the region is intensifying.

in Sports

Cavs plan to sign No. 1 draft pick Wiggins

wiggins

The delay in signing the rookie shooting guard is reportedly not related to speculation the team may trade him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.