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UN warns that cannabis could pose health risk as tobacco firms back trade

The UN said that the use of opioids had overtaken heroin in drug abuse and this made drug abuse more difficult to detect.

Cannabis. Picture: pixabay.com

JOHANNESBURG - The United Nations office on drugs and crime in South Africa said that the increased use of cannabis could pose a danger to health as powerful tobacco companies back the trade.

Figures show that 269 million people used drugs in 2018 and half a million died in relation to drug use in 2017.

Regional representative Zhuldyz Akisheva presented the latest trends in drug use, as the world marked the International Day Against Drug Abuse.

She said that women suffered secondary abuse, including sexual violence.

Akisheva said that 269 million people used drugs around the world in 2018, 30% more than in 2009 and in 2017, 585,000 died in relation to drug use, more in developing than developed countries where resources were limited.

But she said that the significant increase in the use of cannabis was now posing a new threat.

"And there is public concern that the private sector, who are likely to advocate for private business interests over public health interests, large tobacco and alcohol corporations are investing in the cannabis industry. Such investment raises concern that the revenue and profits are likely to dictate the course of the cannabis industry rather than public health."

Akisheva said that women in drug-related offences were most at risk of secondary abuse in the criminal justice system.

"More men than women are arrested for drug-related offences, however, there's a higher level of stigma since women are seen as contravening the traditional role of mothers and caregivers."

The UN said that the use of opioids had overtaken heroin in drug abuse and this made drug abuse more difficult to detect.

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