WHO chief urges drug law cau­tion

Agency only sup­ports mar­i­juana for med­i­cal pur­poses

Global Times - - World -

With Canada on the verge of be­com­ing the world’s sec­ond na­tion to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana, the head of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said Wed­nes­day that coun­tries should think twice be­fore open­ing that door.

WHO chief Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus, who at­tended a re­gional meet­ing in the Philip­pines, told AFP the or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ports the avail­abil­ity of drugs like mar­i­juana for med­i­cal pur­poses.

“Of course we be­lieve that peo­ple who need it, es­pe­cially for pain man­age­ment, should have it. There should be ac­cess,” he said.

That ac­cess should be clearly reg­u­lated, he added, and throw­ing open the doors to full le­gal­iza­tion car­ries its own health risks.

“I think any ad­dic­tive sub­stance is not good for hu­man health,” he said. “We wouldn’t en­cour­age coun­tries to fol­low those who are ac­tu­ally... le­gal­iz­ing it.”

As he spoke, Canada was a week away from al­low­ing for adults to buy, grow and con­sume cannabis, the sec­ond na­tion in the world to do so af­ter Uruguay’s move five years ago.

Cana­dian of­fi­cials have jus­ti­fied le­gal­iza­tion on the grounds that it would take traf­fick­ers and deal­ers out of the equa­tion and pro­tect young peo­ple.

Nine Amer­i­can states have also given the green­light to recre­ational use, and many more al­low it for med­i­cal pur­poses.

But Te­dros said, sim­i­lar to al­co­hol and to­bacco, drugs like mar­i­juana needed to be con­trolled be­cause of the risk they posed out­side med­i­cal set­tings.

He pointed to the strides na­tions around the world have made in curb­ing to­bacco smok­ing, which the WHO con­sid­ers to be the sub­stance that causes the most dam­age to health glob­ally.

While use is lev­el­ing off or even de­creas­ing in some coun­tries, WHO es­ti­mates there are still over a bil­lion smok­ers glob­ally.

As cannabis le­gal­iza­tion grows, the United Na­tions fig­ures point to a much smaller num­ber of users, with 2013 num­bers show­ing nearly 182 mil­lion non-med­i­cal users.

For coun­tries that do pro­ceed with recre­ational le­gal­iza­tion, Te­dros said it is key that they closely mon­i­tor the im­pact on their cit­i­zens’ health.

Le­gal­iza­tion has al­ready prompted a range of ques­tions on pub­lic safety that Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties have had to broach.

They have re­minded mo­torists that driv­ing while high is still il­le­gal, while sol­diers are to be banned from smok­ing or other­wise con­sum­ing the drug up to eight hours be­fore re­port­ing for duty.

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