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Executive Summary

Cannabis can be both addictive and harmful. 

Our understanding of the precise extent and nature of the health implications of recreational cannabis use is developing but, at this stage, there is a great deal of uncertainty. On the eve of the first legal retail sales of recreational cannabis in Canada, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an editorial which referred to legalisation as: a national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.1 

The World Health Organisation recognises addiction rates of 1 in every 9 adults that uses cannabis. This rate of addiction is significantly higher in teenagers, the very age group most susceptible to its harmful effects. Currently, there is scientific uncertainty regarding the causality between cannabis use and the onset of conditions such as psychosis or diminished cognitive function. Nevertheless, there is a compelling body of correlational evidence, spanning 20 years and multiple jurisdictions, that heavily suggests that there is a such relationship. This is particularly pronounced in frequent and younger users. The existing law does mitigate the risk that cannabis poses. Although there has been a slight up-lift in recent years, cannabis consumption has been falling for nearly 20 years in the UK. A great many people do take the law seriously and, to many, the law continues to deter them from using a harmful substance.

For complete Report

INCD Press Release UNIS/NAR/1367  16 November 2018

VIENNA, 16 November 2018 (UN Information Service) - The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) concluded today its 123rd session in Vienna. In closing the session, theINCB President, Dr. Viroj Sumyai, recognized once again the importance of compliance by countries with the three international drug control treaties to ensure the health and well-being of their people, and emphasized the importance of cooperation at all levels.

Over the past three weeks, the Board addressed diverse challenges at the core of the world drug problem. The Board devoted a significant amount of time to consider the matter of treaty implementation, in particular with respect to recent developments concerning the legalization of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. The Board reiterated that the drug control treaties limit the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances exclusively to medical and scientific purposes, and highlighted the serious consequences that non-compliance can have on public health, especially among vulnerable groups.

The Board also gave significant attention to the opioid overdose crisis in North America, and the potential opioid abuse problems in other parts of the world. The Board, and its Standing Committee on Estimates, reviewed the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical purposes in different countries. In this context, the Board finalized a special report on the matter to be published in early 2019 as a supplement to its Annual Report for 2018.

The Board finalized during the session its 2018 Annual Report, dedicating a thematic chapter to the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical, scientific and "recreational" purposes, and approved its report on precursors and its technical publications on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The 2018 Annual Report, its supplement on availability and the report on precursors will be launched worldwide in March 2019.

During the session, the Board also focused its attention on the findings of its recent country missions and agreed on recommendations to be made to the respective Governments on improving their national drug control systems.

This session also marked the 50 th anniversary of INCB. On this occasion, INCB invited Member States to discuss the international drug control system, challenges and the way forward. The Board reiterated its commitment to continuous cooperation with Member States, as well as international organizations and civil society.

On the margins of the session, the INCB President addressed the fifth intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where he emphasized that the fundamental objective of the drug control treaties is to safeguard "the health and welfare of humankind by ensuring the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific use, preventing drug abuse and providing treatment for those affected by drug use, as well as address the diversion of controlled substances and precursors chemical to illicit activities".

The Board met with the Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as part of ongoing cooperation and in preparation for the ministerial segment of the sixty-second session of the Commission to be held in March 2019. In line with the Joint Statement of INCB, UNODC and WHO in Implementation of the UNGASS 2016 Recommendations , and in the spirit of ongoing cooperation, the Board held consultations with officials from the World Health Organizations (WHO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The discussions focused on cooperation among the agencies within their respective mandates to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly relating to health and well-being.

The Board will continue its work in February 2019.

***

The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is an independent body, established by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, mandated to monitor and support governments' compliance with the three international drug control treaties. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council to serve in their individual capacities for a term of five years.

The 123 rd session of the Board was held from 30 October - 16 November 2018.

  • Pressure to loosen NHS guidelines on medical cannabis use is growing in the UK
  • The British Medical Journal warned that widespread use could lead to disaster 
  • The potential crisis was compared to the thalidomide scandal of the 50s and 60s

By GUY ADAMS FOR THE DAILY MAIL PUBLISHED: 24 November 2018 

Each of the 400 phone calls to the cannabis dispensaries followed a script. ‘Hi,’ said a female voice. ‘I’m eight weeks pregnant and feeling really nauseated. Are there any products recommended for morning sickness?’

In two-thirds of cases, the reply was: ‘Yes’.

Around half of those callers who’d received an affirmative answer were then advised to buy a specific ‘cure’ in a form they could eat. 

Just under 40 per cent were told to get it in a form that could be inhaled or smoked. Most of the remainder were offered tinctures or drinks.

The recommended cure in question? Marijuana. But far from being genuine requests for help from expectant mothers, the phone calls were part of a research project by the University of Colorado. 

The researchers were pretending to be pregnant to see how cannabis — legal for medical reasons in the U.S. state of Colorado since 2000 and fully legal since 2014 — was being dispensed. The answers they received offer a worrying insight into the booming medical marijuana industry.

‘After eight weeks [of pregnancy], everything should be good with consuming alcohol and weed,’ one dispensary assistant replied.

‘When I was pregnant and started to feel nauseous, I did not smoke [cannabis] more than two times a day,’ recommended the proprietor of another clinic.

‘Edible [marijuana] would not hurt the child,’ reassured another, telling the woman, wrongly, that something ‘going through your digestional tract’ will have no effect on an unborn child.

Of the 277 dispensaries that recommended cannabis as a cure for morning sickness, three-quarters then attempted to sell a version of the drug containing THC, the chemical that gives users a ‘high’.

Many also advised their pregnant patients to keep their consumption of this intoxicating drug secret from their doctor.

‘The doctor will probably just tell you that marijuana is bad for kids and try pushing pills on you,’ said one. ‘I do not know if the baby doctors are chill or not, [so] do not go stoned when you talk to them,’ warned another.

Perhaps those doctors had good reason for their reservations about cannabis. For the Colorado research paper, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology earlier this year, highlights cannabis as a matter of growing concern to medical practitioners across the world.

Increasingly, marijuana is being sold for medical reasons. Yet this ‘medical’ marijuana is very far from being the safe, natural healthcare product its often-rapacious suppliers would have us believe. 

In some circumstances, the product — which is becoming legal in growing numbers of countries, including Canada, the U.S. and most recently Britain in highly specific circumstances — can be dangerous and possibly fatal. Particularly when taken by pregnant women.

To blame is a simple fact: a multitude of studies over several years have shown all forms of cannabis to be ‘teratogenic’. Meaning that, like tobacco or excessive alcohol, they can harm a foetus.

The drug has been linked to a host of serious birth defects, including at least six life-threatening deformities.

They include two congenital heart problems; a neurological condition called anencephaly, in which a child is born with a large portion of the brain missing, often dying within hours; and the birth defect gastroschisis, where the intestines develop outside the body.

‘Babies exposed to marijuana in utero are at increased risk of admission to neonatal intensive care units,’ says Torri Metz, a University of Utah professor who was among the Colorado study’s authors.

‘There are also concerns about possible long-term effects on the developing brain, impacting cognitive function and decreasing academic ability later in childhood.’

Which brings us to the situation in Britain, where there is pressure on the Government from an increasingly powerful cannabis lobby to loosen the NHS guidelines on medical cannabis use.

For complete story

Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja17.01099 bPublished online: 12 November 2018

Although medicinal cannabis can now be prescribed for CINV, high quality clinical trial evidence is required to determine its efficacy and safety

Access to medicinal cannabis in Australia is a rapidly evolving and controversial field that is relevant to clinicians across a range of medical disciplines. There is widespread community interest in allowing access to medicinal cannabis for a variety of unapproved indications, despite a lack of high level evidence of efficacy.1 Legal and regulatory constraints make this access challenging; however, state and federal governments have now passed legislation enabling prescription by medical practitioners of medicinal cannabis in defined circumstances.2 In recognition of the lack of high level evidence supporting the use of medicinal cannabis for indications including but not limited to cancer pain, refractory paediatric epilepsy and palliative care, combined with the lack of formalised teaching in medical training programs, the Australian Government Therapeutics Goods Administration, in conjunction with state and territory governments, has commissioned a systematic review into the efficacy of medicinal cannabis, and has developed guidance documents for indications in which the evidence base is strongest to assist clinicians in appropriate prescribing of cannabis-based products.3 Despite these initiatives, willingness by medical practitioners to prescribe remains a significant barrier, with only 34 registered prescribers as of 31 July 2018.4

For complete article

November, 2018  By DATAC

As the legalization of cannabis settles in, coming up on the one month mark, there are many challenges which have arisen in the legal sales arena. There have been issues across the country with the legal dispensaries, either online (ON) or store fronts (NB, QC) running out of product and experiencing website glitches. These bumps in the road for legal sales have meant that many recreational and medicinal users are turning to the black market to obtain their products.

Black market filling the holes

The black market for cannabis sales obviously existed prior to the legalization of cannabis last month, and just this fact alone means that they have a head start in sales. Many users, medicinal and recreational, are going to be hard to bring around to purchasing from legal sources. There are two main reasons for this, the first being that the legal sites (storefronts or online stores) have been running out since they opened their doors. Some have completely run out of all products, and have had to close their doors, while others are simply at very low stock and/or long wait times to obtain the product as things are on backorder.

As well as running out of products there are numerous products which will not be available legally until next year, such as edibles, which includes such things as cannabis-infused foods (from cakes to candies) as well as drinks. Cannabis concentrates are another product which will not be available via legal dispensaries until next year. The black market will have a stronghold on all of these, still not purchasable cannabis products, for at least a year, which also means buyers keeping their relationships with their illegal dispensers.

The second reason for a user choosing the black market is price. Particularly for those users who were already set up with a place to purchase, prior to legalization, deciding now to pay much more for the same thing they can already get, is a hard sell. There is variation from province to province with the cost of product from stores versus street, but the prices in stores can be up to $15 a gram with the average price on the street ranging from about $5 (Alberta) to around $7 (Ontario). It also seems that because the prices are high on the legal market it may have led to a drop in prices in the black market.

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