HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Don't Make Pot Legal, UN Official Warns
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Sep 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A4
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Tu Thanh Ha
Note: With a report from Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


MONTREAL -- Canadian politicians will be making a major error if they try 
to legalize cannabis, the head of the United Nations drug control agency 
warned yesterday.

While marijuana does not have the same association with violent crime and 
severe dependency as harder narcotics, it remains a health hazard and its 
prohibition is needed in the global effort against drugs and criminality, 
said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Vienna-based UN Office 
for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.

"Some of our countries are on the verge of making an error which is as 
significant as when tobacco spread," Mr. Costa said in an interview with 
The Globe and Mail.

He noted that legalization would violate the 1988 UN convention against 
illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Canada is a 
signatory to that accord.

"Just because something can be legalized, it does not become good per se," 
Mr. Costa said.

Western countries are sending a bad message to other countries by being lax 
against softer drugs, he warned. "The drug scene cannot be parcelled out to 
individual countries. The dug scene has to be seen in its totality."

He added: "I've heard very negative comments from developing countries, 
saying, 'We are maintaining a very strong policy of prohibition and what's 
happening? It's considered with leniency by some northern countries.' "

Marijuana is harmful to its users, he said, because today's cannabis is of 
much higher potency than what lawmakers might recall from their younger days.

"I'm not here trying to get votes. I'm trying to send a message which is 
very serious."

In the 1960s, marijuana might have THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active 
ingredient) levels of about 2.5 per cent. Current varieties have THC levels 
as high as 35 per cent.
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