In its annual World Drug Report, the United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs (UNODC) called for a “comprehensive ban on advertising, promoting and sponsoring cannabis” which the body said “would ensure that public health interests prevail over business interests,” according to a Vice report.
The UN can only make such a recommendation and not enforce any rule prohibiting cannabis advertising.
Angele Me, head of research and trends analysis at the UNODC, said in an interview with Vice that the proposal would “put public health interest before commercial interests.”
“Of course it is up to member states to decide if they want to take up this ban. But you have a large private sector now that is pushing to expand the cannabis market with all kinds of products claiming many things. It’s like tobacco advertising 100 years ago, which said tobacco was good for anything. The main thing is to make sure young people are not tricked by adverts into thinking cannabis is a healthy choice, when it’s not.”—Me to Vice
The report also suggests that from 1995 to 2019, the percentage of children and young people that perceive cannabis as harmful fell 40%.
“Such a mismatch between the perception and the reality of the risk posed by more potent cannabis could increase the negative impact of the drug on young generations,” the report said.
Additionally, the World Drug Report 2021 found that cannabis’ potency has risen from 4% in 1995 to 16% by 2019, while potency increased in Europe over the same timeframe from 6% to 11%.
Steve Rolles, from drug reform group Transform, told Vice that whether one agrees with the proposed ban or not, the fact that the UN is “actively engaging with the regulation debate is a tacit acknowledgment that legal cannabis is something that cannot be ignored and has to be positively engaged with.”
Just two nations have ended the prohibition on cannabis—Canada and Uruguay. Canada bans advertisements on retail dispensary doors and windows, celebrity endorsements, deals, the use of “people, characters or animals” or imagery associated with “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.” Uruguay bans all cannabis advertising.
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