The world’s most used drug is spreading further and getting stronger

Cocaine production hit a record high in 2020 and maritime trade is growing, it added, with seizure data in 2021 pointing to an expansion beyond the two main markets of North America and Europe into Africa and Asia.

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Opioids remain the deadliest drugs, it said, with fentanyl pushing the number of overdose deaths in the US to a new record: the preliminary estimate for 2021 is 107,622.

Separate US analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that cannabis sales generated more than $11 billion in tax revenue for states and localities between 2014 and 2021. Research firm New Frontier Data projects that the legal marijuana trade in the US will reach $32 billion in revenue this year.

Before recent changes in the legality of cannabis, it was thought that more readily available marijuana could increase occasional use by relying on the so-called cannacurious. Surprising data shows that it has also encouraged an increase in hardcore stoners. The U.S. saw a significant increase in the percentage of people over the age of 26 who used marijuana in the previous month, as well as the proportion who used it daily or almost daily, in 2019, according to an annual government survey. In Colorado, the first state to sanction recreational use, 15 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds consumed weed daily, a figure twice the national average.

According to another report, 48 percent of people in Colorado who used cannabis daily or almost daily did so in 2019, up from 44 percent in 2014. Canada, which allowed recreational use nationwide in 2018, has similar results. By the end of 2020, 20 percent of people reported using marijuana in the past three months, compared to 14 percent at the beginning of 2018. Daily or near-daily use also increased.

As for the health effects of increased cannabis use, the drug may benefit those who have previously purchased the drug from the illegal market, as laws require legitimate sellers to check their wares for contaminants. States with legal recreational weed had fewer cases of vaping-related lung injuries, a 2020 study found.

On the other hand, the rate of cannabis use disorders in people ages 12 to 17 grew 25 percent more in states that legalized recreational marijuana than in states that didn’t, according to a 2020 study.

Since legalization, Colorado has seen an increase in hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and calls to poison centers related to marijuana exposure. Especially children who encounter their parents’ edibles are a cause for concern. In 2019 and the two years before that, there were a total of 4,172 exposures in children ages 0 to 9 across the country, according to a survey of poison center calls, which found the rate was higher in states with sanctioned recreational use.

Reuters, Bloomberg