A new report from the United Nations says global cocaine and opium production are at an all-time high, and joins other international bodies in calling for more progressive policies for tackling the drug trade.
Global cocaine production reached 1,410 metric tons while global opium production reached 10,500 metric tons in 2016, the highest levels ever recorded, according to the 2018 World Drug Report released on June 26 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to the report, global coca cultivation increased by 76 percent between 2013 and 2016. Of the 213,000 hectares of coca crops produced worldwide in 2016, nearly 70 percent were cultivated in Colombia.
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The expansion of coca cultivation in Colombia is the result of various factors, including evolving market dynamics and drug trafficking strategies among criminal groups, in addition to a reduction in “alternative development interventions” and eradication, the report found.
According to the report, coca crop eradication has declined in the Andean nation, leading to a perception of decreased risk associated with coca cultivation for Colombian criminal groups and a “dramatic scaling-up” of production.
The report says this uptick in production may also be linked to increasing cocaine use in the United States, the drug’s largest consumer country.
While the vast majority of the world’s illicit opium comes from Afghanistan, the report notes that “countries in Latin America (mostly Mexico and, to a far lesser extent, Colombia and Guatemala) account for most of the heroin supply to the United States while also supplying the still small heroin markets of South America.”
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The fact that production of two of the world’s most-used and most lucrative illicit drugs is at an all-time high after decades of international efforts aimed at repressing the production of such substances strongly calls this strategy into question. And the UNODC report joins other international bodies in calling for countries to stop stigmatizing the drug trade and to address it using evidence-based policies.
Indeed, the UNODC stressed the need for “timely assessments” and “comprehensive approaches” in order to better understand the magnitude of drug trafficking trends and appropriately equip countries with the resources needed to provide preventive and treatment services to combat the expansion of the drug trade, among other things.
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The UNODC’s recommendations follow the latest annual report from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) released earlier this year that stressed the importance of access to treatment and other preventive measures, and shifting away from traditional anti-drug policies.