It was the last year of the former Millenium. The place was Amsterdam, Niewezijds Voorburgwall in a small “in” cafe.
We were talking about drugs, no wonder. What else does the in crowd do in Amsterdam when not talking about music or the newest fashion designer who had landed and started to carve a name.
Booze, smoke, and talk drugs of course. That was if we weren’t playing RISK or Hotel. Yes, the place’s owner was kind of a nerd. Of course, so were we. Birds of a feather, right.
The bar, DIEP., was the location which had
brought popularized the caipirinha in the Netherlands, for better or worse, and the topic had started rather simply: from alcohol consumption we had moved to talking about cocaine’s ever growing popularity. Suddenly Mr. Nerd had to do it again, of course, he always did it.
Taking everyone by surprise, as pretty much every other time, he came up with one of his many known stats and hit us all by surprise stating that cocaine was only the world’s fourth most popular drug.
To this day I still blame him for adding coffee and chocolate to my knowledge’s list of hard drugs, both of which ranked higher than cocaine.
Out of four drugs, one was never mentioned. We were in Amsterdam after all, and there was at least one joint on the bar. Within arm reach that is.
The newly released United Nations' World Drug Report 2019 confirms that in 2019 things haven’t changed and cannabis continues to be the most popular recreational drug worldwide.
In 2017, the year covered in this year’s report, the number of users of recreational substances had increased with 30 percent compared to the year 2009, to 217 million people aged 15 to 64.
Of these 217 million, an estimated 188 million, or more than 80 percent, have consumed cannabis during the year 2017. North America leads the region stats, with 56.6 millions of cannabis users. Not less unsurprising Asia came in second, rather closely on the heels of N. America with 54.2 million of estimated cannabis consumers over the course of the year.
There is no big surprise about the ranking of the Americas given the growing liberalization, and legalization, of cannabis in the USA, and since end 2018 also Canada.
While many may at first have been surprised by the high ranking of Asia, given the harsh position of many countries to drugs, it is also the berth of cannabis and in many places nature is still vast and the climate is optimal for weed to grow. In many Asian nations cannabis can rather easily be found out in the countryside.
Sadly enough, except unless you had Big Pharma stocks, opioids have continued to climb the rankings and the WDR specifically highlights non-medical use of opioids as a threat. The scale of the opioids crisis has grown to insanity levels and only now are countries, and users, starting to become aware of the actual size as well as many of the methods used by the Pharma conglomerates.
Tramadol, an opioids based painkiller, is also specifically highlighted as becoming a threat in areas of Africa, a major threat in West and Central Africa even.
2017 saw more than 47,000 reported opioids deaths, more than three times (3x) the number of deaths in 2015. 2017 also saw second largest ever opium poppy cultivation area on record.
While there is no doubt that as cannabis becomes a potential base for safer medication, and replaced chemical treatments, Big Pharma will move in the niche and that more likely than not. Here’s hoping that recent cases like the Johnson & Johnson trial will make states, and governments hesitate and think twice, thrice, and more often even, before granting the conglomerates licenses to research and cultivate to research. No matter how much they may have invested in lobbying.
The United Nations' World Drug Report 2019 is available online and consists of five booklets. The data is extensive, boring to read in most cases, the graphs aren’t too interesting — or beautiful — thus reading the report is not necessarilyrecommend when enjoying a good toke.
For those interested nevertheless, Cannabis, Hallucinogens, and Stimulants have their own booklet. It makes for interesting reading to learn something about the global presence, trade, and impact of the greens we love to enjoy. Despite the “boring report” style, with lacking TL;DR.
It is exactly 20 years since that discussion in Amsterdam. There is no doubt that Frank’s source was the first, or second, UN’s World Drug Report. Two decades later, zealots we are, we will now light ‘nother one up just to celebrate our continued “lead” in the recreational consumption department.
Tokers united, let’s get lit.