UN agency reclassifies cannabis as less dangerous drug


The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs has voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from a category of the world’s most dangerous drugs, in a move certain to impact the global medical marijuana industry.

The Vienna-based UN agency said in a statement that it had voted 27-25, with one abstention, to follow the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed with heroin and several other opioids.

The drugs that are on Schedule IV are a subset of those on Schedule I of the convention, which already requires the highest levels of international control. The agency voted to leave cannabis and cannabis resin on the list of Schedule I drugs, which also include cocaine, fentanyl, morphine, Methadone, opium and oxycodone, which are dangerous and often deadly. Cannabis, by contrast carries no significant risk of death and it has shown potential in treating pain and conditions such as epilepsy, the WHO found last year.

In 2019 it recommended the drug “should be scheduled at a level of control that will prevent harm caused by cannabis use and at the same time will not act as a barrier to access and to research and development of cannabis-related preparation for medical use”.

The UN statement on the meeting in Vienna of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs did not say which countries backed or opposed the change, or why the vote on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT) was so close.

The vote does not clear UN member nations to legalise marijuana under the international drug control system. Canada and Uruguay have legalised the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes, but many countries around the world have simply decriminalised marijuana possession.

The schedules weigh a drug’s medical utility versus the possible harm that it might cause, and experts say that taking cannabis off the strictest schedule could lead, however, to the loosening of international controls on medical marijuana.

Source: AP, Reuters

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