New Zealand still the world’s top consumer of cannabis

New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of using cannabis in the world, according to the United Nation’s 2012 World Drug Report.

In 2010 (the most recent year for which international data was available), marijuana consumption was most prevalent in Australia and New Zealand, with the United States and Canada tied for second, followed by Spain, France and Italy.

“Cannabis is the world’s most widely used illicit substance … and consumption is stable,” the UN report concluded. Cannabis is consumed by an estimated 75 percent of all the world’s illicit drug users, making it the most widely used illicit substance in the world. “[T]here are currently no signs that the popularity of cannabis is going to fall, overall, and it is most likely going to remain the most widely used illegal substance.”

World leaders are increasingly supportive of exploring alternatives to cannabis prohibition. Mexican President Felipe Calderon told the UN general assembly in September 2012 the War on Drugs had failed, and countries needed to explore “regulatory or market-based alternatives”. Since the US states of Washington and Colorado legalised cannabis last November, Equador has announced it will regulate and tax cannabis. Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current head of UNAID Helen Clark recently said “there’s no doubt that the health position would be to treat the issue of drugs as primarily a health and social issue rather than a criminalised issue… To deal with drugs as a one-dimensional, law-and-order issue is to miss the point.”

“With over half a million Kiwis regularly choosing to break the law on cannabis, including 70,000 on a daily basis, there really are too many to arrest,” said NORML spokesperson Chris Fowlie.

“The rest of the world is moving beyond prohibition. But our Police continue to aggressively enforce this failed and outdated law. New Zealand not only has the highest rate of using cannabis, it also has the world’s highest arrest rate for cannabis offences,” he said.

NZ Police spent 598,000 hours enforcing the War on Drugs in 2006, according to the Law Commission, at a estimated cost of over $100 million.

“If New Zealand regulated and taxed natural cannabis, like it is planning to do for synthetic cannabis, there would be savings of at least $100 million plus estimated tax revenues of at least $200 million,” said Mr Fowlie. “That’s plenty of budget cuts that could be avoided!”

Full text of the 2012 World Drug Report is available online at: http://www.unodc.org

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