Editor’s note: This is an updating story.
The United Nations Commission for Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted narrowly Dec. 2 to remove medicinal cannabis from Schedule IV of a 1961 treaty on narcotic drugs.
The CND, an organization based in Vienna with members from 53 different countries, voted on six different cannabis-related recommendations presented by the World Health Organization (WHO). Those recommendations outlined protocol for internationally regulating the medical use of different parts of the plant, including cannabis as a whole, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). (Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, a Barcelona-based independent researcher and cannabis advocate, has a breakdown of what each recommendation would do on his blog.)
During its meeting Dec. 2, the CND also voted not to approve a recommendation from WHO to schedule medical CBD, leaving it outside of treaty controls.
However, the vote to classify cannabis remained the main topic of the meeting. The CND voted 27-25 to reclassify both cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal purposes from Schedule IV to Schedule I, removing them from being regulated like some of the world’s most dangerous drugs, the New York Times reports. (The CND’s scheduling system works in an opposite sequence when compared to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.)
Experts say this move could not only improve accessibility to medical cannabis across the world, but also affirms international support of scientific evidence on cannabis as a medicine.
“The removal from Schedule IV is … phenomenal news for millions of patients around the world and a historical victory of science over politics,” Riboulet-Zemouli says in a press release.
However, accessibility still depends on individual countries’ laws, as each member of the UN still holds the power to determine its own cannabis regulations.
As Joshua Horn and Jonathan Dolgin of Fox Rothschild LLP write on Cannabis Business Times, the U.S. has proven to have an influential role in the international drug regulations, and its vote for the reclassification could signify a move toward cannabis decriminalization or all-out legalization.
“If I had to predict, I think the lower hanging fruit in this country to address is further decriminalizing cannabis as opposed to removing it altogether tomorrow from [the Controlled Substances Act],” Horn tells Cannabis Business Times and Hemp Grower.
It’s important to note that the CND was only voting on cannabis and its derivatives that are used for medicinal purposes. Recreational marijuana and CBD added to food, topicals and dietary supplements were not subject to CND’s vote.