The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in long periods of isolation, social distancing mandates, and disruption to lifestyles across the globe. According to a new United Nations report, this has caused an increase in the worldwide demand for cannabis with notable sale surges on the dark web. The U.N. also noted that marijuana remains the main drug that causes people to enter the criminal justice system.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its World Drug Report for 2020 last week and found that about 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, a 30% increase from 2009. But because COVID-19 has closed multiple borders and disrupted drug supply chains, the pandemic may lead to drug shortages on the streets. This could cause dangerous implications, including impure drugs and price hikes.
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“Vulnerable and marginalized groups, youth, women and the poor pay the price for the world drug problem,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. “The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope.”
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown also raised demand for cannabis, the report noted, with a particular rise in Europe. Due to a lack of “access to street dealers by end-users, [Covid-19] may have led to an increase in drug trafficking activities over the darknet and drug shipment by mail in some places,” the UNODC notes.
Approximately 192 million people consumed cannabis in 2018, making marijuana the most commonly used drug in the world today. Adult-use legalization in countries like Canada, Uruguay, and parts of the United States led to rising consumption rates in those countries, the report stated. But legalization isn’t the only factor at play when it comes to an increase in marijuana consumption, as “the same trend was observed in other jurisdictions where non-medical use of cannabis was not legalized.”
In recent weeks, cannabis advocates have argued legalization should be enveloped in larger conversations about policing and race currently unfolding in America. That’s because cannabis criminality causes more people to enter the criminal justice system, which the U.N. report corroborates. Using data from 69 countries between 2014 to 2018, more than half of all drug law offense cases involved marijuana.
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However, the report added, cannabis seizures have declined steadily over the past decade, with legalization playing a significant factor.
The report states, “Global seizures of cannabis herb fell to their lowest level in two decades in 2018—a slump driven by declines in North America, where seizures have fallen by 84% in the last 10 years…policies aimed at liberalizing cannabis markets have played a key role in the decline.”