We Can’t Rely Upon Monitoring by Researchers and Civil Society to Prevent Cannabis Industry Influence—a Global Response Is Needed
The article by Adams, Rychert & Wilkins (2021) draws attention to the nexus and influence practices of commercial interests and their affiliated organizations as they are emerging now in the context of a shift towards legalization of cannabis. The extent of industry influence on policymaking where effective regulation would endanger corporate profits requires a paradigm shift in governmental response at national and global levels.
The article’s co-authors propose the need for a new research agenda focusing upon the legal cannabis industry’s influence strategies and practices and suggest that ‘researchers have a key role to play in identifying, documenting and monitoring the risks of cannabis industry influence, much like they have for decades with tobacco, alcohol, gambling and pharmaceutical’ sectors. Shining light on such industry practices is important. However, this has now become a relatively large research literature in relation to alcohol and other commercial determinants of ill health, documenting the range of practices adopted by TNCs and their affiliates and devising a range of useful conceptual frameworks. However, as this body of research has grown so, too, has the subversion of effective policies by these industries. The impact of industry influence upon the emergent market for cannabis products is likely to be very similar. This argues the need to go beyond monitoring risks and for an urgent and strong global response to shift the balance in the global architecture and support good national policy development. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) provides a useful model.
It is not too soon to start the discussion about an appropriate global response to cannabis. The changing status of cannabis internationally, both medicinal and recreational, which this article documents, undermines the relevance to cannabis of the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs. If cannabis is not to join alcohol, which has the dubious honor of being the only psychoactive addictive substance not subject to an international treaty, then it is already time to begin discussion of the role of a health treaty similar to the FCTC applicable to cannabis. One of the treaty’s most important elements will be the pledge made by governments which endorse the health treaty to ensure that policy development and implementation are protected from industry interests.