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Cannabis 4x more potent – UN report

COVID pandemic fuelling major increase in drug use worldwide: UN report
UN News 24 June 2021
According to UNODC’s World Drug Report 2021, cannabis potency has quadrupled in some parts of the world over the last two decades, while the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 per cent.

This perception gap prevails despite evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health and other harms, especially among regular long-term users. Moreover, most countries have reported a rise in the use of cannabis during the pandemic.

“Lower perception of drug use risks has been linked to higher rates of drug use, and the findings of UNODC’s 2021 World Drug Report highlight the need to close the gap between perception and reality to educate young people and safeguard public health,” said UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly.

Socioeconomic impact

The COVID-19 crisis has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, and has greatly exacerbated unemployment and inequalities, as the world lost 255 million jobs in 2020.

Mental health conditions are also on the rise worldwide. These factors have the potential to spur a rise in drug use disorders.

Moreover, changes have already been observed in drug use patterns during the pandemic, including increases in the use of cannabis and the non-medical use of pharmaceutical sedatives.

Underlying socioeconomic stressors have also likely accelerated demand for these drugs.

Key numbers:

  • Between 2010-2019 the number of people using drugs increased by 22 per cent, owing in part to increase in the global population.
  • Roughly 200 million people used cannabis in 2019 representing 4 per cent of the global population.
  • The number of cannabis users has increased by nearly 18 per cent over the past decade.
  • An estimated 20 million people used cocaine in 2019, corresponding to 0.4 per cent of the global population.
  • Roughly 50,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States in 2019, more than double the 2010 figure.
  • Fentanyl and its analogues now are involved in most of the deaths..
  • The number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) found at global level has been stabilizing in recent years at slightly more than 500 substances (541 in 2019) while the actual number of NPS identified for the first time at global level declined from 213 to 71 between 2013 and 2019.

Cannabis use may be associated with suicidality in young adults

National Institute on Drug Abuse 22 June 2021
NIH study suggests a link between cannabis use and higher levels of suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt.

An analysis of survey data from more than 280,000 young adults ages 18-35 showed that cannabis (marijuana) use was associated with increased risks of thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation), suicide plan, and suicide attempt. These associations remained regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression, and the risks were greater for women than for men. The study published online today in JAMA Network Open and was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

“While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study, these associations warrant further research, especially given the great burden of suicide on young adults,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., senior author of this study. “As we better understand the relationship between cannabis use, depression, and suicidality, clinicians will be able to provide better guidance and care to patients.”

The number of adults in the United States who use cannabis more than doubled from 22.6 million in 2008 to 45.0 million in 2019, and the number of daily or near-daily users almost tripled from 3.6 million to 9.8 million in 2019. Over the same time span, the number of adults with depression also increased, as did the number of people who reported suicidal ideation or plan or who died by suicide. To date, however, the relationship between trends in cannabis use and suicidality is not well understood.

The current study sought to fill this gap. For their analysis, NIDA researchers examined data from the 2008-2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health(link is external) (NSDUH). NSDUH, which is conducted annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, collects nationally representative data among the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population age 12 or older on cannabis use and use disorder, depression, suicidality, and other behavioral health indicators. In addition to determining the associations between these factors, the researchers examined whether the associations varied by gender. They examined data from 281,650 young adults ages 18 to 35 years—the age range when most substance use and mood disorders emerge—with an almost even number of women and men.

The researchers compared four levels of past-year cannabis use: no cannabis use; nondaily cannabis use; daily cannabis use, which was defined as use on at least 300 days per year; and presence of cannabis use disorder, which was assessed in the survey and involves meeting specific criteria for a pattern of continued cannabis use despite negative consequences. To determine the presence of depression, they assessed the prevalence of major depressive episodes based on specific diagnostic criteria measured through the survey. To identify suicidality trends, the investigators separately assessed the trends in the prevalence of past-year suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt as reported in the 2008-2019 NSDUH surveys.

The results of the study indicated that even people who used cannabis nondaily, fewer than 300 days a year, were more likely to have suicidal ideation and to plan or attempt suicide than those who did not use the drug at all. These associations remained regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression. Among people without a major depressive episode, about 3% of those who did not use cannabis had suicidal ideation, compared with about 7% of those with nondaily cannabis use, about 9% of those with daily cannabis use, and 14% of those with a cannabis use disorder. Among people with depression, 35% of people who did not use cannabis had suicidal ideation, compared to 44% of those with nondaily cannabis use, 53% of those who used cannabis daily, and 50% of those who had a cannabis use disorder. Similar trends existed for the associations between different levels of cannabis use and suicide plan or attempt.

Doco on P ignored ‘true horror of the drug’

More FM’s Jay-Jay Feeney says Patrick Gower: On P ignored ‘the true horror of the drug’
Stuff 17 June 2021
Broadcaster Jay-Jay Feeney has dismissed Three’s documentary Patrick Gower: On P as “candyfloss”, saying as someone whose “life was threatened by an extremely unhinged [P] addict” she felt it ignored the true stories behind meth addiction.

On More FM’s drive show on Wednesday afternoon, Feeney told her co-host, Paul “Flynny” Flynn, she felt “quite frustrated” after watching the special, which aired on Tuesday night.

“I felt like [Gower] almost glamorised P,” Feeney said, because he devoted a lot of time to how much money there was to be made out of it.

“He never really touched on the true horror of the drug, and what it really does to the people who get addicted and the people close to them.”

On P follows Gower’s wildly successful three-part series Patrick Gower: On Weed, and sees the Newshub national correspondent delve into the world of pure methamphetamine, or P.

During the one-hour special, Gower spoke to a Mexican cartel running meth into New Zealand, a cop, and a former addict who is three years clean, among others.

Gower called for a Government-led, health-based approach to dealing with New Zealand’s P problem, guiding users on a path to sobriety.

But Feeney argued that glossed over the gritty reality of the situation for many, pointing out that Jessie, the recovering addict, had the full support of her family to get clean.

“What [Gower] didn’t touch on, I think, is the truth.”

She had seen and felt the “wrath” of P, Feeney said.

The drug destroyed the addict, who became “irrational, emotionless, devoid of any kind of compassion or sense… they don’t care who they hurt on the way”.

And it was extremely difficult to help an addict, Feeney went on. Loved ones who tried to intervene were subject to abuse, were threatened with and sometimes the victims of physical and emotional harm.

“The only way that an addict will get better is if they actually want to, not if you want them to… A lot of them are quite happy with the way it is, because it’s just too hard to quit.”

Feeney said when she was threatened by an addicted loved one, she went to the police, but was told there was nothing they could do “unless the perpetrator actually did something first”.

She said faced with the fear of physical and emotional harm and without adequate protection, families would try to distance themselves, which made room for the addict to become the victim, accusing loved ones of not being there for them.

“So I disagree with the conclusion of Paddy [Gower]’s documentary,” Feeney said, “because we do need to treat addicts as mental health patients and have the services to help them. But it’s not always going to be a fairy tale ending with the addict sober and everyone loves each other again like he portrayed on his show.”

Feeney said young people needed to be educated “about the real dangers of this drug, none of this candyfloss crap that no one can relate to… Show people the true destruction of the person who uses P and the damage it does to every good person around.”

She advocated for a prevention-based approach, because those who were already addicted could not always be helped.

She didn’t usually talk about her personal experience, but was doing so to draw attention to P as “the worst drug in the world”.

“So yeah, I’ll take it to parliament, and we can start a march,” Feeney said.

On P became Discovery-owned Three’s highest rating local show of the year, with nearly half a million people tuning in on Tuesday night.

Billions in black-market weed still selling in Illinois 18 months after marijuana legalized

Chicago Sun Times 14 June 2021
The nation’s highest prices for legal pot have kept illegal sales strong — and even raised the cost of a joint on the street in some cases. A lot of the underground bud is coming from California.

Even as legal weed sales in Illinois continue to shatter records nearly 18 months after they kicked off, the illicit pot trade is still dominating a total statewide market some experts have valued at over $4 billion.

New Frontier Data, a cannabis industry research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. estimates that black market pot sales here will top $2.2 billion this year. Meanwhile, BDSA, another pot research firm based in Colorado predicts more than $1.7 billion in illegal sales.

Those numbers are expected to outpace the surging totals for recreational and medical marijuana sales — which surpassed $1 billion last year and reached nearly $680 million by the end of May — by hundreds of millions of dollars. New Frontier Data projects nearly $1.9 billion in legal sales by year’s end, while BDSA offered a more modest estimate of $1.2 billion.

Highest prices in the nation

Neighborhood dope dealers have continued to thrive by undercutting the sky-high prices found at dispensaries, where an eighth of an ounce of smokable cannabis flower can cost around $80 after hefty taxes on recreational pot are tacked on. Illinois’ pre-tax flower prices — which typically run around $60 an eighth — are “higher than every other state right now,” according to Kelly Nielson, vice president of insights and analytics at BDSA.

The high cost of legal weed has had a perhaps surprising benefit for the black market, said one dealer who operates in Chicago and asked to remain anonymous. Based on that legal price point, he was able to raises his own prices — especially for less informed customers.

“If you’re some dork who only learned about [pricing] from the $60 and I obviously know that your only other reference for weed is that, then cool,” said the dealer (who admits to offering more affordable deals to “starving artists, broke people, homies and pretty girls”). “You would happily pay that than stand in line and pay taxes.”

Legal sales could take over by late 2022 or 2023

Experts predict legal sellers will overtake the lion’s share of the state’s pot trade in the coming years, though illicit sales will likely continue to make up a billion-dollar underground market even longer.

Kacey Morrissey, senior director of industry analytics at New Frontier Data, predicts that total legal sales will surpass $2.3 billion by the end of next year, outpacing nearly $2 billion in projected black market sales. Nielson believes the shift will happen in 2023, when she predicts nearly $1.5 billion in legal receipts will outpace illegal sales to contribute to almost $2.8 billion in total sales.

Ultimately, Morrissey predicts many of Illinois’ roughly two million weed consumers will gravitate toward legal outlets.

How quickly that transition happens will largely depend on the cost of legal cannabis and how accessible it is, she noted. Should federal lawmakers enact legislation that removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the process would likely be accelerated.

Felony cannabis arrests dipped in the first year of legalization, when COVID-19, civil unrest and spiking violence stretched police resources thin. But this year’s numbers are now on pace with those recorded in 2019, the source said. He noted that money, gangs and the relatively light penalties for pot-related crimes continue to drive illegal sales.

The dealer scoffed at the explanation for the continued pot-related enforcement. And while he acknowledged gangs are involved in the weed trade, he said many players like him are merely hustling to get by.

“Now that it’s legal, you should see that it’s not evil and that people just want to smoke some bud.”

California offers $100 million to rescue its struggling legal marijuana industry

Los Angeles Times 14 June 2021
The California Legislature on Monday approved a $100-million plan to bolster California’s legal marijuana industry, which continues to struggle to compete with the large illicit pot market nearly five years after voters approved sales for recreational use.

Los Angeles will be the biggest beneficiary of the money, which was proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to be provided as grants to cities and counties to help cannabis businesses transition from provisional to regular licenses.

“California voters approved Proposition 64 five years ago and entrusted the Legislature with creating a legal, well-regulated cannabis market,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. “We have yet to reach that goal.”

Many cannabis growers, retailers and manufacturers have struggled to make the transition from a provisional, temporary license to a permanent one renewed on an annual basis — a process that requires a costly, complicated and time-consuming review of the negative environmental effects involved in a business and a plan for reducing those harms.

As a result, about 82% of the state’s cannabis licensees still held provisional licenses as of April, according to the governor’s office.

The funds, including $22 million earmarked for L.A., would help cities hire experts and staff to assist businesses in completing the environmental studies and transitioning the licenses to “help legitimate businesses succeed,” Ting said.

The grant program is endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said in a letter to legislators that the money is “essential in supporting a well-regulated, equitable, and sustainable cannabis market.”

Separately, the governor wants to give cannabis businesses a six-month extension beyond a Jan. 1 deadline to transition from provisional licenses by complying with mandates of the California Environmental Quality Act. That extension, which faces opposition for delaying promised environmental safeguards, was not included in the state budget bill approved Monday and is still being negotiated with lawmakers.

The governor’s proposal to extend provisional licenses has drawn objections from a coalition of seven environmental groups including Sierra Club California, Defenders of Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy.

They said in a letter to Newsom that the proposal allowing the extension of provisional licenses and interim alternatives to CEQA rules goes against what voters were promised and is “wholly inadequate to protect local communities and the environment.”

At the same time, industry officials say the governor’s proposals do not go far enough in helping businesses struggling to stay open with provisional licenses while meeting what they see as burdensome rules under the state’s environmental regulations.

“It is a significant amount of money, but I don’t know that it actually answers the problem of provisional licenses making it through CEQA analysis in a timely manner to get an annual license,” said Jerred Kiloh, president of the United Cannabis Business Assn.

He said delays in cities adopting rules, their limited staffing and lack of resources by cannabis firms mean some face two to four years to get through the licensing process. Many would face the prospect of shutting down, at least temporarily, if they don’t get a regular license by current state deadlines, Kiloh said.

California voters paved the way for state licensing of cannabis stores, farms, distributors and testing when they approved Proposition 64 in 2016. State officials initially expected to license as many as 6,000 cannabis shops in the first few years, but permits have been issued only for 1,086 retail and delivery firms.

In 2019, industry officials estimated there were nearly three times as many unlicensed businesses as ones with state permits. Although some industry leaders believe enforcement has reduced the number of illegal pot shops, a study in September by USC researchers estimated unlicensed retailers still outnumbered those that were licensed.

Supporters of legalization blame the discrepancy on problems that they say include high taxes on licensed businesses, burdensome regulations and the decision of about three-quarters of cities in California not to allow cannabis retailers in their jurisdictions.

MDMA soaring in popularity in New Zealand, making its way into high schools

NewsHub 6 June 2021
There are more ‘party drugs’ in New Zealand than ever before and some are making their way into our high schools.

The amount of MDMA, GHB, ketamine and LSD seized by police and Customs has shot up significantly over the past two years.

LSD or ‘acid’ tabs seizures went up 30 percent compared to 2019.

Nearly twice the amount of GHB – also known as ‘fantasy’ or ‘liquid ecstasy’ – was collected by police and Customs in 2020 and seizures of ketamine also more than doubled.

But it appears the party drug of choice for Kiwis is MDMA.

More than a million pills were seized by police and Customs in 2020 and the latest wastewater data indicates we’re consuming almost the same amount of MDMA a week as we are methamphetamine.

Police say some view it as a softer drug, without the gang connections and stigma associated with methamphetamine.

“I think we’re seeing somewhat of a ‘culture shift’ that MDMA is now seen as a socially acceptable drug to use,” explains Deputy Inspector Blair MacDonald.

The amount of MDMA seized by authorities from 2018 to 2019 increased by 560 percent.

Cannabis has a carbon problem

High Country News 31 May 2021
Location, location, location: That’s the deciding factor when it comes to the size of marijuana cultivation’s carbon footprint, according to a new study out of Colorado State University.

The paper’s authors, led by Hailey Summers, confirmed previous findings that indoor pot-growing gobbles up huge amounts of electricity and can cause high greenhouse gas emissions. Their research also quantifies emission differences from place to place: A kilogram of cannabis cultivated in Long Beach, California, for example, has a smaller carbon footprint than one grown in Denver, Colorado.

The reason? More energy is required to keep the indoor temperature and humidity at optimum levels in very cold or hot places than in more temperate areas. And California’s grid is virtually coal-free, while the power grid in Colorado and other Interior West states relies heavily on coal and natural gas, both of which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.

 Kilograms of carbon emissions from growing one kilogram of cannabis in Long Beach, California.Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, respectively, the lowest and highest in the United States. Power generation in Hawaii is mostly fueled by oil.

733,200 mwh: 
Estimated yearly electricity consumption by Colorado’s marijuana cultivators.
76,400: Estimated number of Colorado households that amount of energy could power for a year.
41,808 kwh: Monthly electricity consumption by a 5,000-square-foot grow facility in Boulder County. The average Colorado home uses about 800 kilowatt hours per month.

22 miles (35k) you could drive in a Prius on the amount of energy used to produce a one-gram joint.


Pot commercialization tied to self-harm by younger men, study suggests

Scope Stanford Medicine 16 April 2021
States that legalize recreational marijuana use, and in some cases allow retail sales of the drug, may see more suicide attempts and other self-harm among younger men, a new Stanford Medicine study suggests.

Researchers examined whether rates of self harm injuries — which include suicide attempts and non-suicidal behaviors like cutting — correlate with changing marijuana laws and found an increase among men younger than 40 in states that allow recreational use. The study indicated no such correlation with states that allow only medical marijuana use.

“States that legalize, but still constrain commercialization, may be better positioned to protect populations from unintended harms,” said Keith Humphreys, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. Humphreys is the senior author of the study published March 18 in JAMA Network OpenEllicott Matthay, PhD, a post doctoral scholar at UC-San Francisco, is lead author.

Humphreys, who worked as senior policy adviser for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009-2010 under the Obama administration, said that there is little research available on the health effects of the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana.

In certain states, including California, he said, this allows the opening of for-profit dispensaries that sell unregulated varieties ostrains and dosages of the drug. The study showed that in states that legalized recreational marijuana use and have robust retail operations, there was an associated 46% increase in self-harm injuries among 21- to 39-year-old men.


Local politicians fuming over Cannabis Act enforcement gaps

Orillia News 28 April 2021
According to County of Simcoe councillors, Cannabis Act enforcement is going to pot.

During Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, many councillors expressed dismay with recent correspondence sent to the County of Simcoe from Health Canada in response to concerns raised by the county over the Cannabis Act as it currently exists.

“Health Canada claims…that processes need to be followed. There’s a tremendous gap between the communications they have and what is actually happening out there,” said Oro-Medonte Township Mayor Harry Hughes.

At the end of 2020, county councillors voted in favour of sending a letter to Health Canada outlining their concerns with the enforcement of the Cannabis Act.

At that time, councillors asked the federal agency to consider amending the rules around commercial and personal production of cannabis to address problems being felt in rural areas across the county such as noise, odours and enforcement.

Drugs: No. of people charged per month dropping dramatically; less bias against Māori

NZ Herald 11 May 2021
Police appear to have made a concerted effort to charge fewer drug users to close the gap in their treatment of Māori in the months since the election.

Frontline officers also appear to be offering more health referrals, though the proportion of those engaging with health services remains less than 3 per cent of all those who face drug use/possession charges as their most serious offence.

This follows a message from Health Minister Andrew Little after the cannabis referendum that people should almost automatically not be charged but given a health referral if their most serious offence was drug use/possession.

New police data released to the Herald under the Official Information Act shows how police have used their discretion from November last year to February this year.

Of those facing the possibility of being charged with drug use/possession as their most serious offence, one in five people – or 20 per cent – was charged.

The proportion with respect to cannabis dropped to one in 10 people, while more than half (54 per cent) were charged for methamphetamine.

Police also appear to be making more of an effort to treat Māori and non-Māori the same, though they are still more likely to be charged; 22 per cent of Māori were charged overall, while 12 per cent of Māori were charged for cannabis and 56 per cent were charged with having methamphetamine.

Frontline officers were already trending towards charging fewer people before the election, but in recent months they also appear to be encountering fewer people with drugs.

Both of these factors contributed to far fewer people being charged – 56 people a month – in recent months with drug use/possession as their most serious offence. Before a key change to drug laws in August 2019, it was about 130 people a month.

These trends in police data are similar to those in Ministry of Justice data, which showed 580 convictions for drug use/possession only in 2020 – a 37 per cent reduction compared to the 920 convictions in 2018.