Canada Leads World in Marijuana Use
The Drug Trade: Who's Using, Who's Supplying, the World's Illicit Drug Culture at a Glance
CBC News - July 6, 2007
Well, we can officially call ourselves Toker Nation now. According to the 2007 World Drug Report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Canada has the dubious honour of leading the industrialized world in marijuana use, at least when calculated as a percentage of population.
According to the UN report, which is a staple of police forces around the world, 16.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 smoked pot or ingested one of its derivatives last year.
That's well above the world average of 3.8 per cent for the same demographic and ahead of almost every other country in the world save for Ghana (21.5 per cent of the population), Zambia (17.7 per cent) and the tiny island-states of Papua New Guinea and Micronesia (29 per cent each).
The good news is that pot consumption around the world - and in Canada - may be levelling off, according to the UN and Interpol, which does its own analysis of the statistics. Canadian toking is actually down a bit in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and so is marijuana trafficking to the U.S., Interpol says, the result of successful border crackdowns.
Still, according to one of the charts buried deep inside the massive 282-page UN report, Canada's marijuana habit is not likely to butt out anytime soon: a study of Ontario students in grades 7 to 11 found that roughly 30 per cent were toking up, a trend that began in the late-1990s and is similar to what took place in the mid-1970s when their parents went to school.
The other good news is that apart from cannabis - and, OK, cocaine - Canada is pretty much right on or just under the international average when it comes to the other three drugs on the top five list, heroin, amphetamines and ecstasy.
In sheer numbers, because of its population size and affluence, the U.S. appears to have the largest number of recreational drug users on the planet, depending a bit on how you measure. Many authorities feel China underestimates its opium problem by as much as seven million people.
But different countries have carved out their own marks of distinction.
As a percentage of population, Spain leads the world in cocaine use (3 per cent of those 15-64), followed closely by the U.S. at 2.8 per cent. (Canada's number is 2.3 per cent, just behind England.)
Iran, Russia and, oddly, nearby Estonia, have the biggest heroin problems (Canada is well below the world average here). Australia and New Zealand appear to lead the way in amphetamine abuse. (The Philippines have higher numbers but it is based on a small study.) Australia and the Czech Republic are the hotspots for ecstasy.
In all, an estimated 200 million people around the globe used illicit drugs last year, not quite five per cent of the world's population. The vast majority of these users smoked pot - nearly 160 million people, which if they all lived in the same place would represent the seventh-largest country in the world.
The big five
Global users (% of pop. 15-64): 158.8 million (3.8)
Top user nations (% of pop. 15-64): Micronesia and Papua New Guinea (29), Ghana (21.5), Zambia (17.7), Canada (16.8), Australia and New Zealand (13.4), U.S. (12.6).
Who produces: According to the World Drug Report, cannabis is cultivated in 172 countries around the world, mostly for local or regional export. For the North American market - nearly 31 million users - the U.S. and Mexico are the biggest producers, followed by Canada, a distant third. North America is the largest source of marijuana production, fully a third of world production, according to Interpol.
A recent report from the RCMP says Canada's marijuana trade (nearly half of which is based in B.C.) is worth about $7.5 billion annually and is connected to weapons and explosives trafficking, cocaine smuggling and stock market fraud.
The trend line: The UN report says there are encouraging signs that marijuana production and trafficking have "stabilized" and even declined a bit, to 42,000 tonnes in 2005. That may be, but that latest figure still represents a 60-per-cent increase from five years earlier.
Global users (% of pop. 15-64): 24.9 million (0.6)
Top user nations (% of pop. 15-64): Philippines (6, but based on small sample study), Australia and New Zealand (3.8 and 3.4 respectively), El Salvador (3), the U.S. (1.8), England, Wales, Denmark and Estonia (1.3). Canada is 0.8 per cent
Who produces: Methamphetamines are produced in small "kitchen" labs in most industrialized countries, but the largest production takes place in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar, China and the Philippines.
Amphetamine production is primarily located in Europe, particularly the Netherlands and Poland.
The trend line: The amphetamine and methamphetamine markets have grown substantially from the early 1990s, when there was an estimated 70 tonnes in circulation, to something like 480 tonnes today. There was a slight drop in production (and increase in dismantled labs) in 2005, which law enforcement agencies attribute to countries like Canada and the U.S. restricting ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine products in over-the-counter medicines. These products were part of the so-called precursor chemicals used to make the illegal tabs.
Global users (% of pop. 15-64): 14.3 million (0.3)
Top user nations (% of pop. 15-64): Spain (3), U.S. (2.8), England (2.4), Canada (2.3), Italy (2.1), Bolivia (1.9). There are an estimated 6.4 million cocaine users in North America compared to four million in Europe.
Who produces: Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, in that order. Colombia produces 62 per cent of the world's cocaine.
The trend line: A strong decline in coca cultivation in Colombia, largely due to U.S.-supported eradication efforts, has law enforcement agencies pleased. Overall, coca cultivation decreased almost 30 per cent between 2000 and 2006.
Still, because of improved yields and manufacturing techniques, the potential yield for 2006 is 984 tonnes, the second highest on record and much higher than the average yields in the 1990s and earlier parts of this decade.
Global users (% of pop. 15-64): 11.1 (0.3)
Top user nations (% of pop. 15-66): Iran (2.8), Russia (2), Mauritius (2.0), Estonia (1.5), Kazakhstan (1), Macao, China (1.1). Canada is 0.3 per cent.
Who produces: Afghanistan produces 92 per cent of the world's illegal opium, most of which is turned into heroin, followed by Myanmar, Lao, Pakistan and a small amount in Colombia.
The trend line: Heroin is largely yesterday's drug, though it does tend to show up along the trafficking routes out of Afghanistan, hence the problem in neighbouring Iran and Kazakhstan. And it has become a real problem in Russia and other Baltic nations, which are used as the entranceway to Europe.
Last year, 2006, saw a huge increase in the Afghan poppy crop, which authorities fear is helping back the Taliban and its ability to purchase weapons.
Global users (% of pop. 15-64): 8.6 million (0.2)
Top user nations (% of pop. 15-64): Australia (4) Czech. Rep. (3.5), Cyprus (2.5), New Zealand (2.2), Northern Ireland (1.9), England (1.6), the Netherlands (1.5), Canada (1.1).
Who produces: Ecstasy production is mostly based in Western Europe, though Interpol now says there is evidence of large-scale production starting up in Eastern Europe and the Far East.
The trend line: Actual production is difficult to measure as ecstasy is manufactured in thousands of small labs that are easily destroyed and then started up again. But the trend is definitely up. Over the last decade, the UN estimates, the number of users has nearly doubled from 4.5 million to 8.6 million mostly young people.