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Free-for-all in the cannabis industry?

by Dr rer. publ. Werner Wüthrich

For some time now we have, from various parts of the Western world, been reading reports and initiatives to legalise Cannabis and other drugs – and we rub our eyes in disbelief as we see: It is no longer the “drug mafia” that is to earn the big money, but the states, the tobacco, alcohol and cannabis companies. There are plans to make the black market disappear and to guarantee the protection of young people through legal consumption. Not a word is uttered about the serious
effects on psychosocial and physical development, especially of young people. Not a word about the effects of the increasing use of drugs on social areas such as families, social security, road traffic and occupational life. – After numerous US states had released cannabis containing THC for medical purposes and also as a stimulant, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently vehemently advocated liberalisation and a state-controlled market – also as an election campaign promise. This promise was realised on 17 October 2018. That day the shelves in the shops were empty after a few hours, and more than $40 million in cannabis products were sold in the course of two weeks. The news magazine Der Spiegel reports that former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer has become a member of the international advisory board of the Canadian cannabis society Tilray. Together with the Belgian-Brazilian brewery InBev, the company develops non-alcoholic beverages containing the active ingredient THC.

Mike Gorenstein, CEO of the Canadian Cronos Group, had his say on CNN Business. His company distributes cannabis products on all five continents:
“This is a watershed moment that will get the ball rolling globally, as well as in Canada, for all participants in the cannabis industry. Congratulations to the many leaders and advocates who have worked so hard to reach this milestone”.
In recent weeks, Wall Street investors have also jumped on the bandwagon. The share prices of some smaller companies producing cannabis products, including those in the USA, have doubled and tripled in a short period of time. Now, large tobacco companies have registered interest. Altria Group, the world’s largest American tobacco company, which among other things sells Marlboro cigarettes, has announced that it will buy 45 per cent of the Cronos Group for 1.8 billion dollars. In addition, it will have the right to buy another ten per cent of their shares for another billion dollars, and to take over the company entirely. The value of the Cronos share already doubled in the summer. So now it has risen by a further twenty per cent – and did so in only one day. Other large corporations have similar goals. Coca-Cola wants to launch a beverage line containing cannabis (“Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 29 September 2018). Also large, globally oriented breweries and spirits companies have already invested billions to produce non-alcoholic cannabis-containing beverages. Heineken, for example, has already launched a sparkling water of this kind in California. Newly created sweets containing Cannabis (lollipops and gummy bears, etc.) are also coming onto the market. Wall Street analysts estimate that the cannabis industry in the USA has already made 11 billion sales in 2018. This could rise to 75 billion by 2030. Today, only one per cent of the world’s population has access to legal marijuana. Therefore the market potential is huge.  
It seems that an actual “gold rush” has begun – as was once the case in California, when gold was found and people felt they could become millionaires within days. – There are signs that marijuana consumption will multiply under the new conditions. This “gold rush” will continue in the new year. If you read online Wall Street stock market commentaries, you will quickly find what you are looking for. On 9 January, for example, stock prices generally slumped by 3.2 per cent due to various uncertainties (trade dispute with China, budget dispute in Congress, financial worries, etc.) – not so cannabis stocks. Shares of the Boston-based cannabis company MariMed rose by 9 per cent that day, after its share price had already risen by 371 per cent in 2018. The company sees itself as a “multi-state cannabis organisation that develops, owns and manages cannabis facilities and branded product lines”.

Is youth protection still possible under these conditions?

It is not intended to question here the intention of Canadian and American authorities to regulate the market and protect young people. But – will they succeed, if an even much greater amount of Cannabis is consumed? How will children react when they see their parents or even their teacher consuming Cannabis as if this were quite normal, a common phenomenon of life? Who will then protect them from the temptation to try not only Cannabis, but also cocaine or heroin, of which it is also being said that they are not so very dangerous and that one can stop consuming them at any time? If the use of cannabis products is regarded as something normal and ordinary and is generally accepted, the step to further intoxication drugs is inevitably smaller and even more tempting. Who will then effectively help parents who will be even more confronted with their children’s addiction problems? Who will support them when problems arise at school and in professional training? We are left with question upon question.
We always hear in the propaganda for drug liberalisation, which is also very present in Switzerland: With legalisation (also in euphemistic terms called “regulation”) the business will be taken from the drug mafia”. Justin Trudeau also used this argument in his bid for liberalisation. He announced the law change on Twitter using the following sentence: “It was too easy for our children to get marijuana – and for criminals to pocket the profits”. – I think the criminal organisations were among the first to realise that they can do much better business with a massive expansion of drug use. And they will certainly be able to sell more and stronger substances in this new, more tolerant environment. Even the drug legalisation movements, so well networked in our western world, will certainly not stop at cannabis products. Already “drug experts” are to be found in Switzerland and the surrounding countries who advocate liberalisation/legalisation/regulation of all drugs.

UN countermeasures

During the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2018, in a few weeks ago, the US President attempted to counter this trend. He called upon the world to become active and to contribute to the solution or that is to say the defusing of the drug problem, and not to give up hope. He identified four areas for action: (1) More prevention and mindfulness in education and schools should help to reduce demand, (2) health efforts are to forestall adverse effects and to save lives, (3) and (4) better police and judicial cooperation are to contribute to the reduction of production, cultivation, manufacture and trade and thus to lessen supply (United States Mission in The United Nations, 24 September 2018). UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his gratitude:
“You, Mr President, are spotlighting this global problem. That was never more necessary than right now.” 135 countries have signed the action plan. Above all Asian countries such as China, Singapore and others continue to pursue a consistent zero-tolerance policy. Nor is drug liberalisation an issue in Japan. It is noticeable that precisely Asian states are increasingly setting the tone in global economy. Switzerland has not signed the action plan. Most of the media have hardly noticed this. Former Federal Councillor Ruth Dreifuss is President of a private international drugs commission to legalise all drugs (Global Commission on Drug Policy). She was present in New York and opposed President Trump’s proposal. Since the beginning of her time as Federal Councillor, she has been committed to the liberalisation of drugs and to a state-regulated market (Swiss radio station SRF, “Rendez-vous am Mittag” on 27 November 2018).

“Cannabis – Informationen zu Wirkung und Auswirkungen auf Körper und Psyche” (Cannabis – informations on the effects and consequences for the body and psyche) is a 12-page brochure for young people, parents, teachers and other interested parties..

Is it acceptable also in our country to earn money from just anything?

It is clearly evident to everyone that the wave of marijuana legalisation from the USA and Canada is currently washing over Switzerland: On the first page of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 11 January there is a report on a position paper of the Apotherverband der Stadt Zürich (Association of Pharmacists of the City of Zurich). The authors feel that prohibition must come to an end and cannabis should be legalised and the market regulated – first for medical use and later also as a stimulant. Anyone wanting to buy cannabis in the future should do so in a pharmacy. In this way, the association wants to fight the flourishing black market and save the costs for “repression”. “The outdated drug policy must be dedusted”, writes one of the newspaper’s commentators. First statements from the parties are already available. This is probably the starting signal for a new propaganda campaign even in Switzerland, and it is probably inevitable that this will lead to another referendum.
In 2008, the people voted on an initiative to liberalise cannabis. 63 per cent of voters and all cantons rejected it. What surprises today is that in recent years, cigarette consumption has been somewhat reduced through great efforts (pictorial cigarette pack warnings, high prices, bans on smoking, etc.). The tobacco companies certainly did not like it. And now exactly the opposite is happening with cannabis. It is likely that even greater efforts will be needed at some time in the future to counter this trend, to curb the rising consumption of marijuana and to combat its consequences. – In relation to drugs, we are presently experiencing very alarming social processes and events on a global scale!    •   

“Cannabis – Informationen zu Wirkung und Auswirkungen auf Körper und Psyche” (Cannabis – informations on the effects and consequences for the body and psyche) is a 12-page brochure for young people, parents, teachers and other interested parties..

Editor:
Verein Jugend ohne Drogen, Zürich, www.jod.ch; Vereinigung Eltern gegen Drogen, Bern, www.elterngegendrogen.ch; Dachverband Drogenabstinenz Schweiz, Bern, www.drogenpolitik.ch

Can be ordered by:
info(at)jod.ch
elterngegendrogen@bluewin.ch