The United Nations has finally recognized the medicinal value of cannabis, voting Wednesday to remove the plant from a list of dangerous drugs and clearing the way for the widespread research and medical use of marijuana and medications based on the plant.
Experts are hailing the decision as a major step toward normalizing cannabis in medicine. For thousands of years, the plant has been used across the globe therapeutically – dating back as far as ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, and when it was in Chinese medicine in the 15th century B.C.
In recent years there has also been a growing consensus regarding the potential of cannabis in treating symptoms of various disorder and diseases including but not limited to cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis
The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted by 27 to 25 to remove the cannabis from Schedule IV of the U.N.’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The vote came after experts at the World Health Organization recommended that the plant be removed from the list, where cannabis was listed alongside deadly and highly addictive opioids like heroin.
While the plant remains a banned drug for non-medical and recreational use under UN law, advocates have hailed the vote as likely to boost efforts to legalize the plant and validate medical research of the plant.
“This is welcome news for the millions of people who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes, and reflects the reality of the growing market for cannabis-based medicinal products,” said a press release from a group of drug reform advocates.
Dirk Heitepriem, a vice president at Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth, told the New York Times that the vote was a “big step forward,” adding: “We hope this will empower more countries to create frameworks which allow patients in need to get access to treatment.”
The move has also resulted in a boost for stocks that supply cannabis for medicinal purposes, as is the case with companies like Canopy.
In recent years, demand for medical marijuana products has exploded as consumers clamor for products containing cannabis derivatives like cannabidiol or CBD, a nonintoxicating compound. Market analysts estimate that in the United States alone, the CBD industry could be worth $16 billion by 2025.
While businessmen in the legal cannabis market are gleeful over the move, some advocates remain critical of the fact that the vote does little to address the collateral damage wrought by decades of a war on drugs that has been punctuated by colonialism and racism, and has disproportionately impacted Black and Indigenous communities across the globe.
“The original decision [in 1961] to prohibit cannabis lacked scientific basis and was rooted in colonial prejudice and racism,” said Anna Fordham, the executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium.
Continuing, she said that the United Nations’ original stance on cannabis “disregarded the rights and traditions of communities that have been growing and using cannabis for medicinal, therapeutic, religious and cultural purposes for centuries, and has led to millions being criminalized and incarcerated across the globe.”
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.