UN Agency Warns on Marijuana, Prescription Drugs

The International Narcotics Control Board's (INCB) annual report includes a warning against potent pot and calls for greater controls on Internet pharmacies, but also says that opiate-based painkillers need to be made more available globally.

AFP reported Feb. 18 that the U.N. agency called for countries to review their policies regarding marijuana.

“Over the years, cannabis has become more potent and is associated with an increasing number of emergency-room admissions,” the report said. “In spite of all these facts, the use of cannabis is often trivialized and, in some countries, controls over the cultivation, possession and use of cannabis are less strict than for other drugs.”

INCB said laws in some countries allowing medical and recreational use of marijuana were “overlapping and confusing.”

Internet pharmacies also were seen as a mixed blessing by INCB. “Purchasing pharmaceuticals online can be beneficial, especially in areas where hospitals and pharmaceutical services are widely dispersed,” the report said, but the INCB “is alarmed that 'rogue' pharmacies are encouraging drug abuse among vulnerable groups.”

Despite the growing problem of prescription-drug abuse in countries like the U.S., however, the report called for wider availability of powerful opiate-based painkillers.

“Although the access to controlled medicines, including morphine and codeine, is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a human right, it is virtually nonexistent in over 150 countries,” the report said. “The WHO estimates that at least 30 million patients and possibly as many as 86 million annually suffer from untreated moderate to severe pain.” 

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