PARIS — Dutch dope-selling coffee shops, hash smoking in 1960s London, and Moroccan marijuana production all come under the spotlight in a mammoth new study Thursday on the use and abuse of cannabis in Europe. “Over 13 million Europeans have consumed it in the past month,” said the 700-page report by the EU drugs agency European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). “An estimated one in five European adults have tried it at some time in their lives.”
The study, published on the UN’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, calls for neither legalisation of the so-called soft drug nor seeks to have its use punished even more harshly than it currently is in many EU states. The two-volume report aims to provide an authoritative reference work on scientific research, legislation and policy issues associated with the drug in Europe.
“Cannabis is the most-used illicit drug in Europe, but it can also be a major source of division and debate among politicians, scientists, police, professionals and citizens,” said EMCDDA director Wolfgang Goetz. “As a result the public faces a daily flow of information on cannabis, some of it well-founded, but some of it militant and at times misleading.”
Titled “A cannabis reader: global issues and local experiences,” the report is designed as a “guide to inform research, debate and policymaking on the substance.” Volume 1 takes the reader through the history of cannabis, how various governments have changed their approach to the drug, including how coffee shops developed in the Netherlands. It charts the growth of the cannabis trade from Morocco, which accounts for 80 percent of all resin seized in Europe, and looks at emerging lines of supply in Thailand, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. Home-grown marijuana is shown taking an ever bigger share of the European market, particularly in Britain where it already accounts for 50 percent.
From zero tolerance to decriminalisation, it highlights some of the disparities between EU states, often seen pulling in opposite directions on the cannabis issue. Portugal decriminalised cannabis use in 2000, while Luxembourg scrapped the punishment from prison to a fine. Meanwhile, Denmark and Italy toughened their laws while the Netherlands tightened the screw on its famed coffee-shops. Many new EU entrants have tougher-than-average cannabis laws, but they also perceive the drug as less of a problem than poverty or unemployment.
Volume 2 of the report provides general overviews on areas such as the impact of cannabis use on health, descriptions of contemporary European patterns of cannabis use, and the demand for treatment of cannabis use disorders. It compares prices for a gram of cannabis — from 1.4 euros in Spain to 21.5 euros in Norway — and claims to debunk the belief that modern-day cannabis is much stronger than before, calling it an “urban myth” based on flawed data.
– The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is based in Lisbon
– View the report A cannabis reader: global issues and local experiences