North America has seen an overall decline in marijuana seizures between 2010 and 2015—roughly the period when U.S. states began enacting measures to legalize or decriminalize pot, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to the UNODC’s 2017 World Drug Report, released yesterday, the U.S., Mexico and Canada still account for 39% of all global seizures in 2015. At the same time, marijuana use has steadily been on the increase, particularly within the U.S.
While is still early days to draw any hard conclusions about the public health and criminal justice outcomes of the pot legalization measures enacted by states, the UNODC says there has been a marked decline in cannabis use by adolescents.
“The prevalence of past-year and past-month cannabis use across the United States has declined among 8th and 10th grade high school students and has remained unchanged among 12th graders in the past five years or so,” the report says.
In April, West Virginia became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation; eight states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use.
According to national data analysed by the UNODC, laws permitting medical use appear to have increased the recreational use of pot among adults in the U.S., but as yet “have had little effect on the prevalence rate of recreational use of cannabis among adolescents.”
This decline in use among adolescents contributed to an overall decline in cannabis use disorders in the U.S. between 2002-2015. Marijuana use disorders remain higher among adults without a high school diploma; as well as those who are underemployed, depressed, single, or those who have other substance abuse issues.
As of March 2016, an estimated 1.2 million Americans were registered for medical cannabis cards. California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon had the highest concentration of registered medical marijuana users.
Mexico, followed by Canada, continue to be the largest source countries for transnational shipments of marijuana in North America.
For more information, see the UNODC 2017 World Drug Report.
This summary was prepared by Victoria Mckenzie, deputy editor (content) of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcome.