FWD: UN report on cannabis suppressed, but leaked

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (sasha1@netcom.com)
Mon, 23 Feb 1998 18:07:21 -0500

Cannabis: UN report leaked

By Tim Radford, Science Editor

The Guardian Thursday February 19, 1998

United Nations health chiefs suppressed a finding that cannabis is
safer than either alcohol or tobacco, according to a report today.

A World Health Organisation report published in December was to have
concluded that even if cannabis was consumed on the same scale as
cigarettes and whisky, it would probably still be safer than either,
but the passage was scrapped at the last moment, says the magazine New

The comparison with alcohol and tobacco, the suppressed passage said,
was made "not to promote one drug over another but rather to minimise
double standards that have operated in appraising the health effects
of cannabis".

The disputed passage was leaked to New Scientist after it was
withdrawn, reportedly in response to pressure from the US National
Institute on Drug Abuse and the UN International Drug Control
Programme. It says: "In developed societies cannabis appears to play
little role in injuries caused by violence, as does alcohol." It also
says there is good evidence that alcohol can harm foetal development,
while the evidence that cannabis can harm foetal development is "far
from conclusive".

The WHO report does admit that, like heavy drinking, marijuana smoking
can produce psychosis in susceptible people. It also says chronic
cannabis smoking may contribute to cancers of the aerodigestive tract.
But one lung disease researcher, Donald Tashkin of the University of
California at Los Angeles, found that volunteers who smoked three
joints a day had much the same lung capacity and function as those who
smoked none.

However, dope smokers must inhale deeply and hold the smoke in the
lungs, so they got a large dose of potentially damaging tar.

The leaked UN report comes at a time of renewed pressure to think
again about drug policies.
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