The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) on Wednesday approved the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin for medical purposes from Appendix IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It was a close 27-25 vote, with the United States and prominent European nations in favor (and China and Russia against). The WHO had already made six cannabis-related proposals for review by the CND in early 2019, but the CND only approved one.
The Single Convention categorizes medicinal products according to their possible harm compared to their medical benefit, with Annex IV including those that are considered to be the most harmful and have virtually no medical benefit. The US previously confirmed that it would support the WHO recommendation to remove cannabis from the restrictive global category of drug planning and released an explanation of the reasons for the vote:
The United States’ vote to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Appendix IV of the Single Convention while maintaining them in Appendix I is in line with science showing that cannabis was self-developed, although a safe and effective therapeutic was developed from cannabis has posed significant public health risks and should continue to be controlled under international drug control conventions. In addition, this move has the potential to stimulate global research into the therapeutic potential and public health effects of cannabis, and to attract additional researchers to the field, including those who may have been deterred by cannabis’ Annex IV status.
The statement is pretty consistent and reflects what we already knew. The medical marijuana market has exploded in the past decade and this trend is widely expected to continue. In this post, we’ve set out how the 2020 elections led to even more legalized medical and recreational marijuana – even in very conservative states.
It is important to note that this does not mean that countries are now free and clear to legalize cannabis altogether. Cannabis remains a List I drug in a separate international drug control system. But as the statement suggests, this vote is likely to be a monumental symbolic win, fueling research and further legalization efforts on a global scale.
The reclassification proposal definitely took center stage and was supposedly the most hotly debated, but the other five proposals that were not adopted were:
- Recommendation 5.2: Addition of dronabinol and its stereoisomers (Delta-9-THC) to Appendix I of the 1961 Convention (Recommendations 5.3 and 5.6 were linked to Recommendation 5.2)
- Recommendation 5.4: Remove extracts and tinctures of cannabis from Appendix I to the 1961 Convention
- Recommendation 5.5: Exclude CBD preparations with less than 0.2% THC from international controls
Resistance to Recommendation 5.5 is probably the most notable because it failed to pass on some technical issues. The US cited “legal and procedural reasons” to explain its vote, rather than a belief that CBD should be under the control of international drug conventions:
“We do not dispute the scientific basis for the recommendation. Cannabidiol has shown no potential for abuse, and it is not our position that cannabidiol should or is under the control of international drug conventions. We look forward to continuing the conversation on this important topic within the CND. “
While this is not a complete victory, the US and other countries have made it clear that their votes against recommendations 5.2-5.5 did not stem from a general anti-cannabis stance and they wanted to continue developments on an international level. In any case, this week was likely the first step in a gradual trend of change that we anticipate, and that in itself is reason enough for a celebration.
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