Cannabis in the Balkans
Due to the rise of cannabis use in the Western Balkans, absence in appropriate regulation brings many threats for cannabis in this country. Various health and safety risks occur in case of the untested products and of unknown origin. An available report from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) describes the current situation. It identifies the problem and draws attention to required actions. Cannabis use is becoming more common in the Western Balkans, according to the report. Significant proportion of people in the region are regular cannabis users. Moreover, cannabis cultivation is developing in the Balkans. The production of high-potency cannabis resin and marijuana itself has become more common in the area. So, what are the results for the region?
Health issues coming from cannabis
Threats for cannabis in Balkans – one of the key issue addressed in the report is the link between cannabis use and mental health. The report highlights that heavy cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia. For this reason, the report highlights the need to increase investment in prevention. It points out that there is a need to treat and reduce the health harms of cannabis use.
Illegal cannabis in Balkans
In addition to health risks, the report also highlights the safety of cannabis production and trade. The Western Balkans is a major transit route for illicit drugs, including cannabis, from East to West Europe. This has led to an increase in drug-related crimes such as money laundering, corruption and violence. The report indicates that drug trafficking is a significant source of income for criminal organizations in the region. Cannabis production and trade is a major contributor to this illicit economy. The report calls for a coordinated response to drug-related health and safety threats in the Western Balkans. The report recommends strengthening law enforcement and judicial capacity to combat drug trafficking. This includes efforts to disrupt the production and distribution of cannabis.
Cannabis policy reform?
One promising way to address the cannabis problem in the Western Balkans is through cannabis policy reform. The report acknowledges that the current approach to cannabis policy in the region is primarily focused on law enforcement and criminalization. This is not effective in reducing drug-related harm. The report suggests that governments should consider alternative policy options, such as decriminalization or legalization. This could be part of a comprehensive response to drug-related health and safety threats in the Western Balkans. Decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana could lessen the harm of current drug policies. They would affect:
- less demand for illegal marijuana,
- reducing the costs associated with the criminalization of cannabis users,
- tax revenue that could be useful to fund drug prevention, treatment and harm reduction programs.
However, these policy options should be implemented with caution and in a way that takes into account the unique circumstances of the Western Balkans.
Cannabis in Western Balkans – key learnings
In conclusion, the report on drug-related health and safety risks in the Western Balkans highlights the need for a coordinated response. All this in order to address the growing problem of illegal and therefore dangerous cannabis in the region. The report calls for increased investment in prevention, treatment and harm reduction measures to address the health risks of cannabis use, as well as strengthening law enforcement and judicial capacity to combat drug trafficking. In addition, alternative policy options such as decriminalization or legalization should be considered as part of a comprehensive response to drug-related health and safety threats in the Western Balkans. By adopting a multifaceted approach to cannabis policy, the region can better protect public health and safety, reduce the harm of current drug policies, and dismantle criminal networks that profit from the production and trafficking of illicit drugs.