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UN report: opium and cocaine production fall

The new UN world drug report has some good news – worldwide cocaine and opium production are down:  Opium cultivation in Afghanistan, where 93% of the world’s opium is grown, declined 19% in 2008, according to the UN world drug report. In Colombia, which produces half of the world’s cocaine, cultivation of coca fell 18% ...

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COROICO, BOLIVIA - DECEMBER 21: A man stands with his coca plants December 21, 2005 in the town of Coroico in the Yungas, Bolivia. Evo Morales, the newly elected Bolivian president and the former leader of the largest union of coca growers in central Bolivia's Chapare jungle, has championed coca production and farmers. Morales has simultaneously promised to crack down on cocaine traffickers in Bolivia, the source of 16 percent of the world's cocaine. Many Bolivians view the green plant as sacred and Aymara Indians have chewed it for centuries to protect against hunger and fatigue. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The new UN world drug report has some good news – worldwide cocaine and opium production are down

The new UN world drug report has some good news – worldwide cocaine and opium production are down

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan, where 93% of the world’s opium is grown, declined 19% in 2008, according to the UN world drug report. In Colombia, which produces half of the world’s cocaine, cultivation of coca fell 18% while production declined 28% compared with 2007. Global coca production, at 845 tonnes, was said to be at a five-year low, despite some increases in cultivation in Peru and Bolivia[…]

The world’s most popular drug, though, is still going strong, and getting more dangerous: 

Cannabis remains the most widely cultivated and used drug around the world, although estimates are less precise. Data also show that it is more harmful than commonly believed, said the report.

The average THC content (the harmful psychotropic component) of hydroponic marijuana in North America almost doubled in the past decade. “This has major health implications as evidenced by a significant rise in the number of people seeking treatment,” said the report.

The world’s biggest markets for cannabis were North America, Oceania, and western Europe. For cocaine, North America and some parts of western Europe remain the main markets, with the UK having the highest number of users and Spain the highest number per capita and the largest number of seizures.

The biggest headlines, though, came from the new approach for dealing with users:

“People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution,” said Antonio Maria Costa, director of [the UN Office on Drugs and Crime], calling for universal access to drug treatment. Since people with serious drug problems provided the bulk of drug demand, treating this problem was one of the best ways of shrinking the market.

His call for international law enforcement to target traffickers rather than users came as it was announced that there is a worldwide growth in synthetic drugs.

Drug law reformers saw Costa’s words as a significant sign in the debate over the “war on drugs”. However, he said that legalisation was not the answer.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

James Downie is an editorial researcher at FP.

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