The press loves pot

This post’s title sounds snarky. I wasn’t trying to be. These are all worthwhile stories but how many times can I use the title “Pot in the news”?

First, a story on the UN finding that Canadians used pot at rates higher than any other industrialized nation in 2004. (Quick quiz: Which countries report higher rates of past year use?)

Next, an article focuses on an experts claim that past year use rates don’t mean much.

An editorial letter responds with a call for legalization.

Finally, the Australian Parliament published a report on pot and mental illness:

The evidence reviewed above suggests that cannabis use is associated with the development of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. However, there is ongoing debate over exactly how this association should be characterised. In brief, it appears that while the majority of cannabis users will not develop mental illnesses as a consequence of their cannabis use, a “vulnerable minority appear to be at increased risk of experiencing harmful outcomes”. As noted above, there is good evidence that young people and heavy users are particularly at risk.

The public-policy implications of this are complex. According to a recent review, the main challenge will be in communicating with young people about the probable risks of cannabis use:

This task will be complicated by the conflicting interpretations of the evidence on either side of the policy debate about the legal status of cannabis. We can expect those who defend current policy to support a strong causal interpretation of the evidence and proponents of cannabis liberalization to dismiss the evidence as the latest version of “reefer madness”. These contrasting responses may amplify scepticism among young people about messages about the mental health risks of cannabis use.

In other words, it is crucial that emerging evidence about the links between cannabis use and mental-health problems is communicated clearly (particularly to those most at risk) and in a way that acknowledges the complexity of the issues involved without obscuring the level and gravity of the risks posed by cannabis use to vulnerable groups.

(Quiz answer: Zambia, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Micronesia)