UN admits drug market thriving, for first time does not condemn cannabis legalisation



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22 June 2017


UN admits drug market thriving, and for first time does not condemn cannabis legalisation


Today the UN World Drug Report 2017 acknowledges that under the current drug war approach, the promised drug-free world is further away than ever, with the illegal drug market  “thriving and diversifying”. However, for the first time it not only acknowledges that cannabis is being legalised and regulated in a growing number of places, it does not condemn this approach - a sharp change from previous statements by UN drugs bodies.


Martin Powell, Transform’s Head of Campaigns said; "The UN World Drug Report states that far from delivering a drug-free world, the drug war has created an illegal market that is thriving and diversifying, fueling organised crime, terrorism, and corruption, while causing hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths. However, we welcome that the report also acknowledges - for the first time without condemning - the growing legalisation and regulation of cannabis around the world, that is protecting people by taking the market out of the hands of criminals. We call on the UN and governments to explore regulation of other drugs too."



The report shows:

  • Illegal drug market is thriving and diversifying

  • Use in N.America and Europe rising

  • Up to 351m people use illegal drugs, almost 30m are problematic drug users

  • Minimum 190,000 drug-related deaths, most of them avoidable

  • Opium and cocaine are “thriving” - Opium poppy yields up by a third, coca bush cultivation up by 30%

  • Up to 85% of opium cultivation in Afghanistan in Taliban controlled territory – rise in cultivation numbers signifies increased funds for terrorist groups relying on drug trafficking for revenue

  • Dark Net Transactions still low, but 50% increase since 2013

  • Range of new psychoactive substances has nearly doubled from  260 in 2012 to 483


(UNODC World Drug Report 2017)


(UNODC World Drug Report 2017)



Martin Powell, Head of Campaigns, Transform Drug Policy Foundation 07875 679 301



  1. UN World Drug Report 2017 and related material can be downloaded here: https://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/

  2. Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs www.tdpf.org.uk