WHO delays marijuana rescheduling recommendation

On December 7, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations announced that it was postponing its recommendation on rescheduling cannabis. The U.N.’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) had previously announced that it would make a recommendation on rescheduling on that day. In the wake of research favorable to CBD and cannabis, the CND may have been about to recommend rescheduling cannabis, which is currently listed under two conventions as a Schedule I substance, a category reserved for dangerous drugs that provide no therapeutic value. Although the need for further review was given as the reason for the delay, it may be that politically conservative nations lobbied for the postponement.

In June, the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) published a report that cast a favorable light on CBD, creating the hope that a recommendation for rescheduling would soon follow. According to the report: “To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” The report also notes that “Several countries have modified their national controls to accommodate CBD as a medicinal product.” In light of this report, the CND issued its announcement on rescheduling.

Rescheduling under International Law

The issue of rescheduling has been brought to the fore not only by the actions of several countries to relax their scheduling of CBD. In addition, Uruguay and Canada have legalized cannabis, which puts them in violation of the conventions (the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971). This conflict of laws led the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to issue a rebuke to Canada, saying: “UNODC regrets the Canadian legislature’s decision to legalize cannabis for non-medical use. As noted by the International Narcotics Control Board…this decision contravenes the provisions of the drug control conventions, and undermines the international legal drug control framework and respect for the rules-based international order.”

Oddly, Russia, a country not noted for its respect for international law, also issued a statement against Canada’s legalization: “We expect Canada’s partners in the G7 to respond to its ‘high-handedness’ because this alliance has repeatedly declared its adherence to the domination of international law in relations between states.” In regard to the U.N. conventions making marijuana illegal, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated: “Russia strictly abides by these principles and intends to consistently introduce them in practice within the boundaries of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and other relevant international venues.”

In response to the delay in the WHO recommendation, Juan Fernandez Ochoa, the Campaigns and Communications Officer of the International Drug Policy Consortium, stated: “Ever since Canada enacted its legal regulation of cannabis, there has been a lot of pushback from traditionally reactionary countries” with seats on the CND. “Russia, China, Pakistan, Egypt, Singapore” have opposed “any move to confer any legitimacy on cannabis.” In China, for example, although it has a flourishing hemp market, those who are found in possession of more than five kilograms of marijuana may be subject to the death penalty. While the expected announcement favoring rescheduling has been delayed, however, it may not have been defeated, given that several countries have loosened restrictions on CBD and two have legalized cannabis. The CND may make its recommendation in March.

What do you think? Will the CND recommend rescheduling CBD? Will the conservative countries succeed in burying the recommendation? Leave a comment below.

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