The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) accepted a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation on the 1st of December 2020, to remove cannabis and the resin of cannabis from the Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs passed in 1961. The schedules of the international narcotic drug conventions categorise drugs/narcotics considering their medical benefits against the potential harm caused when abused.
This defining vote occurred in Vienna and may have a tremendous impact on the global medical cannabis industry. The implications of this vote will range from regulatory oversight to scientific research into the use of the cannabis plant as a medicine.
The highly anticipated approval of Recommendation 5.1 had a slight majority in favour of the decision. With 27 votes for, 1 abstaining vote and 25 votes against.
The CND which is the main drug policymaking body within the UN has yet to vote on the remaining recommendations provide by the WHO.
The outcome of the vote is significant for the medical cannabis industry and will provide the industry with a much-needed boost.
There are many countries that essentially mirror the UN scheduling of drugs for their domestic legislation and it could lead to national de-scheduling and remove obstacles that were in place for those looking to conduct research and carry out clinical studies into the prospective medical benefits of cannabis.
This vote may encourage countries to reassess how they classify cannabis. Which could potentially pave the way for increased research into medicinal cannabis and its prospective use as a treatment for a variety of symptoms and conditions. However, this vote is unlikely to loosen the international controls that govern medical cannabis.
While the vote does not free the plant from treaty control, it is progress toward the acceptance and normalisation of cannabis in medicine and society as a whole.
There are some within the cannabis industry that think the WHO didn’t go far enough with the recommendation and as cannabis doesn’t have a risk profile comparable to the other drugs in Schedule I, it should not be categorised in the same vein. However, when contemplating the difficulty that has been encountered at the UN level for the removal of cannabis from Schedule IV, this is a decision that cannabis researchers and businesses will celebrate.
The decision has come after 60 years of cannabis being classified within the strictest category of the 1961 Single Convention which is one of the foundation treaties of the international controlling of drugs.
Member states of the UN will have 2 years to assess the implications of the decision and then can either accept or reject the proposals.