A United Nations committee voted on Wednesday to remove cannabis for medicinal purposes from List IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a list of the world’s most dangerous drugs where it was listed alongside highly addictive opioids such as heroin. With the decision, the body officially recognizes the medicinal properties of the plant.
The UN recognized the medicinal properties of cannabis on Wednesday during a vote in Vienna by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the United Nations’ executive body for drugs policy. (We recommend: the Colombian anachronism against adult cannabis)
The simple majority of the 53 states of the Commission have decided to remove cannabis and its resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Drugs, which means that the medical benefit of this plant is officially recognized, the recreational use of which will be in the future will remain prohibited. international regulations. In that convention, cannabis is classified in Lists I and IV, the latter reserved for the most dangerous drugs and under the strictest control, such as heroin, and to which it is attributed little medical value.
Nearly all states in the European Union – with the exception of Hungary – and many of the Americas have added a simple majority of 27 votes to approve the change – one of the most important in the field of drugs in recent decades – while a large some of the Asian and African countries objected.
[ERRATUM] Brazil was missing from the list of countries that voted “no” to recommendation 5.1. And the Czech Republic was incorrectly listed in the “No” list. With apologies. pic.twitter.com/ouhpPxmWh4
– IDPC (@IDPCnet) December 2, 2020
Experts say that while the vote will not have an immediate impact on the relaxation of international controls, as governments still have jurisdiction over the classification of cannabis, the recognition of the United Nations is a symbolic victory for the advocates of drug policy change, as many countries look to global treaties for guidance. (You May Interest: New Effort to Regulate Cannabis Use, Approved in First Debate)
Therefore, this change is expected to facilitate research with cannabis, which contains active ingredients that have shown promising results in the treatment of Parkinson’s, sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic pain and cancer.
A WHO recommendation
The vote came nearly two years after a World Health Organization (WHO) ruling recognizing the medical usefulness of cannabis and recommending its removal from List IV.
At the same time, it was proposed to keep cannabis on List I, where narcotics are found under international control due to their addictive nature but are accessible for medical activities, a situation where other narcotics are found, such as morphine.
That recommendation – now passed with 27 votes in favor, 25 against, and one abstention – was based on the WHO’s first critical study of cannabis, the world’s most popular drug with some 200 million users, according to UN estimates. (We recommend: Where were the patients after 4 years of medical cannabis law in Colombia?)
The WHO is responsible for the scientific assessment for the Commission of both the potential therapeutic properties and the harm caused by drug addiction under international control, and its recommendations are usually adopted without much controversy.
In this case, however, the vote was preceded by a major debate and several postponements over the past two years due to the differences between the states that favored change and those that demanded to maintain the “status quo”.
EU countries, with the exception of Hungary, and others such as Argentina, Canada, Colombia, USA, Mexico, Uruguay and Ecuador, have provided support according to WHO scientific criteria.
About 50 countries have launched various medical cannabis programs, and this United Nations decision will, unsurprisingly, promote this type of policy, as well as research with the plant.
Argentina decided in November to legalize the self-cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use and will allow the sale of oils, creams and other derivatives of the plant for therapeutic purposes, based on the WHO recommendation now officially adopted.
Until now, medical research with cannabis has been limited, as inclusion on List IV has been a drag for many laboratories due to the limitations and the different legal criteria used in each country.
States that voted against the change, led by Russia, China, Brazil and Pakistan, believe that easing cannabis control is now sending the wrong message.
The states opposed to any change believe that this decision downplays the use of cannabis and minimizes the damage to health it causes, such as an increase in certain mental disorders.
The change also comes when several countries, such as Canada, Uruguay and a dozen US states have legalized the use of cannabis and others, such as Mexico, Luxembourg or Israel, have ongoing legal initiatives in the same direction. The committee also considered five other recommendations, but a proposal to relax restrictions on cannabis derivatives such as THC did not receive enough support to succeed.