UN Accepts WHO Recommendation to Recognize Medical Potential of Cannabis in Historic Drug Policy Win

In a historic vote, the United Nations has just voted to reschedule cannabis and cannabis related substances, effectively accepting its medical and therapeutic potential. Since 1961, cannabis and its derivatives have been in the most restrictive class of scheduled compounds (schedule IV of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs), alongside drugs like fentanyl and heroin. Drugs scheduled in this category are said to have the highest potential of abuse and incredibly limited medical value. The rescheduling measure voted upon upon today comes after a number of delays following six recommendations by the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. 

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Vote to Reschedule Cannabis Has Major Implications on Global Medical Cannabis Industry

Of the six proposed recommendations by the WHO, the measure with the most support preceding the vote was the first recommendation 5.1, which aimed to: 

“Delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention”

The measure passed with 27 votes for and 25 votes against with 1 abstention. This will result in cannabis being removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (see table by Prohibition Partners below). This rescheduling has massive implications for the global medical cannabis industry, from regulatory oversight to increased scientific research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis. With cannabis removed from Schedule IV, the UN is officially recognizing the potential medical value of the plant. Furthermore, they are accepting the opinion of the WHO that cannabis is not “liable to produce ill-effects” on the scale of other drugs in Schedule IV, such as heroin. This important realignment of drug policy with scientific research has the potential to help accelerate similar progressive drug policy efforts across the globe.

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CBD Still Remains Under International Control 

Of the 5 recommendations that were not passed in today’s historic vote, Recommendation 5.5 to remove CBD from international control was not passed. While many nations were likely in favor of liberalizing CBD in theory, it is likely that the specific details of the recommendation were unsatisfactory to their respective representatives.

For instance, Colombia’s representative Miguel Camilo Ruíz Blanco told the commission that, “Colombia’s negative vote is based on the absence of clear language in these recommendations” rather than a principled opposition.” The United States simply took the position that the recommendation was not needed by their interpretation of drug conventions as it is not explicitly stated.

vote United Nations reschedule cannabis global drug policy

 Drug Policy Keeps Winning Big in 2020

Despite the chaos brought forth into 2020 by the Coronavirus pandemic, one thing has been abundantly clear: the world is ready for more progressive, scientifically aligned and sensible drug policy. From psychedelics to cannabis, drug policy has seen some historic victories in 2020. The vote by the UN today marks another significant turning point in the way cannabis and plant medicine as a whole is being viewed by those in authority and policymaking positions. Many argue that Recommendation 5.1 did not go far enough, as cannabis does not have the same risk profile as other drugs in schedule I, like heroin. While this is true, the historic measure passed today is still a step in the right direction and one that researchers and businesses will celebrate.  

vote United Nations reschedule cannabis global drug policy

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