The Global Cannabis Commission Report - Cannabis: Moving Beyond Stalemate

30 October 2008

The Cannabis Commission was an international group of academics and experts in drug policy analysis, commissioned by the Beckley Foundation to produce a Report on cannabis policy in a global perspective. This report contains: an opening chapter giving an overview of the global history of cannabis in recent decades, touching on patterns and trends in use and the cultural politics of cannabis, and laying out the plan for the rest of the book; an up-to-date review of what is known about the health consequences of cannabis use. This includes harms to physical and mental health, and performance effects, such as on driving.

The extent of danger of cannabis is considered in a public health perspective, in a comparative frame with harms from other drugs - tobacco, alcohol, opiates, etc; the evidence on the effects of the current system of prohibition and control, including the size and organization of the illicit cannabis market, the costs and effectiveness of efforts to eliminate the market through police and criminal justice systems, and the effects of criminalization on users and their families; a review of policy initiatives at national and sub-national levels of reform within the international prohibition system intended to mitigate adverse effects. These include initiatives to decriminalize cannabis possession, to reduce penalties for use or possession, to divert to treatment or other handling, and to license and tolerate use, such as with the Dutch coffee shop system; an assessment of the effects of reforms within the system. The available evidence is summarized on the effects of different reforms on amount and patterns of use and harm, and on secondary adverse consequences of arrest and other enforcement; a review of the potential means for altering the present international convention status of cannabis, to allow controlled availability for adult use in national or sub-national regulatory regimes.

While there are a variety of possible paths available for an individual country or a group of nations, primary attention is given to those most likely to be feasible in terms of norms of international law and of political realities. The chapter includes consideration of concrete provisions in a possible new Convention on cannabis, on the model of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; a final chapter drawing conclusions and making recommendations on possible paths forward, towards more effective and just policies on cannabis, at both national and international levels.