Changes to state cannabis policies in the United States over the last twenty years – especially in the last four years – have emboldened independent political states across the world to move forward on their medical and recreational cannabis laws. Pressure from the United States at the international level to enforce international trade treaties of prohibition has tied the hands of foreign governments for years in places which are extremely cannabis-friendly, such as Jamaica, Spain and others.
Following consistent and urgent pressure from vigilant cannabis advocates from Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and other allies with whom they work closely, such as the International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) has decided to convene a special session to re-evaluate the international scheduling of marijuana as an illegal drug.
ECDD recommendations are instrumental in changing the classification of medical cannabis under the United Nations (UN) Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol (the “UN Single Convention”). 185 nations have signed the UN Single Convention, which many politicians consider to be an obstacle to federal medical cannabis reform in the United States. This process could mean fundamental changes in the way the United States and other nations treat medical cannabis patients, research and regulations – changes that cannot be undone by one country or the new US Presidential Administration…Cannabis, including medical cannabis, is currently classified as Schedule I and IV in UN Single Convention. This classification means it is a drug of abuse – not a medicine. This scheduling was determined based on a report created by the Health Committee of the League of Nations in 1935. The UN General Assembly must have a recommendation from the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to change the Scheduling of cannabis. The CND makes decisions on scheduling of substances based on recommendations from the ECDD.Our persistence paid off. In response to ASA’s critical review and the IMCPC letter of protest, the ECDD has agreed to begin the pre-review process and discuss science and policies related to medical cannabis at a special session in eighteen months. The committee staff will consider new information related to the cannabis plant, resin, extracts and tinctures. Staff will also consider the emerging science related to THC and CBD. The pre-review is a first step towards the formal critical review that will prompt a recommendation that the CND reclassify medical cannabis under the UN Single Convention.
THC and CBD are currently the most studied active constituents of the cannabis plant. Many scientists agree that several other cannabinoids play somewhat unknown but important roles as medicine. Formal recognition of the beneficial effects of cannabis at the level of the UN will have a dramatic impact on the future potential for international trade of the plant.
Creating a safe space for patients and doctors to control the conversation about cannabis is still emerging, but the global community is beginning to pay enormous attention. Anyone interested in the international cannabis industry will want to stay informed and join the dialogue at the International Cannabis Business Conference, in San Francisco, California, on February 17 and Berlin, Germany, on April 10-12, 2017.