POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (STPNS) -- The 2007 World Drug Report is out from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  Second on the list of Nations who have a population that has used a ?cannabis product? even one time over the course of a year in the age range 15 to 64 is the Federated States of Micronesia, not Micronesia but specifically the FSM.  FSM usage is exceeded on the report only by Papua New Guinea but only by a scant .4%.

Not long ago the World Health Organization said that the FSM had the most obese people per capita.  The statistical methods utilized in that study were questioned by many critics throughout the world but the study was taken by many proponents of proper nutrition in the FSM, including the Island Food Community of Pohnpei, as a warning sign.



Perhaps that will be the reaction to the UN Drug Report.

The data for the report is old.  Only Kenya in East Africa and Maldives in South Asia have older data in the Drug Report but only by a year. The data in the report says that 29.1% or nearly one in three people in the FSM inside the reported age range have used marijuana in the past year.  

Actually, that?s not precisely true.  The report data has been carried by the U.N. since the FSM responded to an Annual Report Questionnaire in 1995, over eleven years ago.  It is clear that no one in either Papua New Guinea, whose data is also from 1995, or the FSM has responded to the questionnaire since that time.

The years used as a basis for reportage on the UN report range on the number scale from 1994 (Kenya at 4% and Maldives at .5% cannabis usage) to 2006 (England and Wales and Thailand).  England and Wales reported an 8.7% usage in 2005 and 2006 but they reported then on a smaller age range of 16-59.  Thailand, the newest reporter to the UN reported on those aged 12-65 and still showed a figure of only .9%.  The United States reported a figure of 12.6% for 2005.  India reported in 2000 that only 3.2% of its population had used a marijuana product that year.  Jamaica, even with its ?ganja? reputation reported in 2001 that 10.7% of its population between 12 and 55 had used a marijuana product within that year.

National Police Chief Pius Choitailug said that he was the one that submitted the report to the United Nations in 1995 and that it was based on information submitted from the states of the FSM.  Since that time, the State Police Departments have not been giving him information for the report on a consistent basis despite their repeated promises.

As in many other countries the data that the National Government is able to submit is based on arrest records.

When asked whether the marijuana problem was bigger, or smaller in the FSM since 1995, Chief Choitailug said that he felt that the problem was smaller but that there is probably more export now than there was in  1995.

In Oceania only Australia and New Zealand showed use of cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, ecstasy, hallucinogens, or sedatives.  FSM reported no usage of those drugs in 1995.

The compilers of the UN Drug Report say that considerable efforts have been made over the last few years to improve the estimates presented in the report.  They say that their efforts were hampered not only by the ??hidden? nature of the phenomenon being measured? but also by the unresponsiveness of countries that are member states of International Drug Conventions all of whom are required by those conventions to respond to annual drug use surveys.  They say that in Oceania only Australia and New Zealand responded or 13% of the countries required to respond under the drug conventions.  They say that they sent the survey to 198 countries and that only 104 responded and that many of the questionnaires that were returned were not complete.

Measuring drug use is a difficult task but some countries with rising drug use problems have established innovative techniques to measure the extent of the problem.  For instance, in Italy in 2005, scientists started testing waste water to measure the amount of benzoylecgonine, a substance that apparently - does not come from any other source than the organic processing of cocaine inside the liver of the human body and excreted in the urine.  They determined from the first study of the Po River that 3.8 kilos per day or 1387 kilos per year were probably consumed along its shores.  Studies in other areas suggested that the Hudson River in New York carries the waste of some 16 tons of cocaine consumed a year, the Rhine River in Germany shows 9 tons of consumption and the Potomac River in Washington D.C. carries the waste of 7 or more tons of cocaine usage.

Most countries don?t have the technology for such sophisticated measures.  The 2007 UN Drug Report said, ?One key problem in currently available prevalence estimates from countries is still the level of accuracy, which varies strongly from country to country. While a number of estimates are based on sound epidemiological surveys, some are obviously the result of guesswork?It can probably be assumed that the countries which reply regularly to the ARQ are those which take the drug problem more seriously.?