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United Nations Commission of Narcotic Drugs removes cannabis from narcotic drugs list

United Nations
12/04/2020

The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) removed cannabis from its global narcotic drugs list, also known as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, earlier this week.

The final voting tally had 27 in favour and 25 against with one abstention, as the CND introduced the possibility of recognizing both the medicinal and therapeutic potential of cannabis. The CND reviewed a series of recommendations on cannabis and its derivatives put out by the World Health Organization (WHO) before deciding to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the  1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed with other, far more serious drugs like addictive opioids including heroin.

The United Nations is normally viewed as a bit of a toothless beast when it comes to most non-cultural matters, but this is the kind of policy recommendation where it excels. In this case this could potentially prove to be another deciding factor in the end of prohibition in many countries, which is something that suits cannabis companies both in Canada and abroad, just fine.

Presently the number of countries that have adopted medicinal cannabis programs range around 50, while Canada, Uruguay and 15 US states have legalized it for recreational purposes, with Mexico and Luxembourg closing in on becoming the third and fourth countries.

Here’s Henning von Koss, CEO of Canadian cannabis company, Pharmacielo (PCLO.V):

“We welcome the CND’s vote as it represents a monumental step forward in the evolution of the global medicinal cannabis industry. We also congratulate the entire medical cannabis community for its belief in the efficacy and positive impact cannabis will have on human wellness and health, and its relentless efforts to have it de-scheduled. From our perspective, this vote enables global providers and consumers of cannabinoid extracts to confidently move into a positive new environment where the bar for quality and compliance, as well as the standardization of products and formulations, will be set much higher.”

The Commission of Narcotic Drugs (CND) was established in 1946 by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 9(I) to help ECOSOC supervise how international drug control treaties were implemented. The UN General Assembly expanded their mandate in 1991 to include functioning as the governing body of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

In terms of supporters and detractors, most of the usual suspects played their parts. Ecuador, for example, supported all of WHO’s recommendations and was in support of cannabis for production, sale and use under a tight regulatory framework that monitored practices, quality innovation and research and development.

The United States was cautious, but ultimately voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV while keeping it in Schedule I. Their justification was that it’s “consistent with the science demonstrating that while a safe and effective cannabis-derived therapeutic has been developed, cannabis itself continues to pose significant risks to public health and should continue to be controlled under the international drug control conventions.”

Chile voted against and argued that “there is a direct relationship between the use of cannabis and increased chances of suffering from depression, cognitive deficit, anxiety, psychotic symptoms, among others” and Japan stated that non-medical use “might give rise to negative health and social impacts, especially among youth.”

In other related news, the CND vote comes shortly after a ruling made by the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU), which declared that CBD was not a narcotic. Included among WHO’s points was that CBD is not subject to international controls and has in recent years become part of a billion-dollar industry as it’s become prominent in wellness therapies.

—Joseph Morton

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