Cannabis - Medical Wonder or Worldwide Anathema?

Views on Cannabis

Cannabis - you'll hear it called wacky backy, marijuana, weed, puff, smoke, pot, herb, dope, resin, skunk, grass. Call it what you will but never has such a small weed caused such a huge worldwide debate.

To some it is a social anathema which should be universally outlawed. Others want it legalised because they see it as both a harmless way to relax and a powerful relief from crippling pain.

Abuse and Addiction

Cannabis was once valued for its medicinal qualities and as a useful source of food and fibre. But in the 21 st century preconceptions and misconceptions about the drug abound.

So what is cannabis? The drug, thought to originate from India , comes from a plant (related to nettles and hops) which grows wild in many parts of the world. The first written account of cannabis usage can be found in Chinese records dating back to 2800BC.

It is available in a variety of forms - herbal (grass, weed, skink), resin (black, soapbar, hash), powder (pollen) and oil.

Hand rolled joints or spliffs are the most common way of taking cannabis. It can also be eaten in the form of a cake or biscuits or inhaled using pipes or a bong (a bowl partially filled with water).

Cannabis Abuse Statistics: An Eye-Opener

According to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, UNDCP, cannabis is the most widely produced, used and trafficked drug in the world accounting for 50% off all customs seizures.

Although there are no real hard statistics over the extent of cannabis growing, the UNDCP believes that worldwide production could run to between 30,000 and 50,000 tons per year.

The UN estimates that at the start of the millennium around 3.5% of the world's population aged 15 and over were using cannabis - a staggering 147 million people. Asia is the largest user accounting for over 25% of the world's consumption. Countries such as Kenya , Malawi , Ghana and Morocco , Argentina , Bolivia and Brazil , have all reported increased usage. In America , smoking marijuana is more popular than surfing the internet!

Despite international pressure and the war on drugs, it is still very much a supply and demand business, which is growing each year and is likely to continue doing so as long as there is a market.

Major producer countries such as Morocco , Lebanon , Pakistan , Nepal , Afghanistan and India compete in a bouyant market, with around 40% of the weed coming from the "cannabis farms" in Morocco . Significant amounts are also starting to be produced in North America and Europe .

Drug barons have been quick to exploit the natural abundance of cannabis and the incompetence of local authorities. The absence of any effective drug enforcement in eastern and central Europe makes it easy to move into the West. The drug is now flooding into France , Holland and Germany from Poland through the so-called Polish pipeline, run by local gangsters who act as go-betweens in the Central Asian hashish market.

The internet in particular has been exploited by drug dealers as cannabis e-commerce takes a hold and the business expands from back street transactions to having cannabis delivered to your door at the click of a mouse.

But the majority of people, who use it for recreational and medicinal purposes, still get their dope from the small dealer in the local pub or grow in their back gardens and greenhouses.

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