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The United Nations has reclassified cannabis for medical use as a less dangerous drug in a long-delayed decision that could clear the way for marijuana research.
The Commission for Narcotic Drugs, which includes 53 member states, voted on the move today, December 2, while taking into consideration a series of recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), with regards to reclassifying cannabis and its derivatives.
The vote passed 27 to 25 and means cannabis for medical use will be removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it sat alongside highly addictive and dangerous substances such as heroin.
The decision will have no immediate implications when it comes to international controls on cannabis, and governments across the globe will still have jurisdiction when it comes to classifying the drug, but the reclassification is a symbolic win for advocates pushing for change on what they deemed was an old-fashioned classification.
Alfredo Pascual, a journalist for Marijuana Business Daily, told the New York Times that the world ‘has changed since the early 1960s’. He claimed that grouping the drug in the same category as dangerous substances such as heroin was a deterrent to research, and that a change in the classification could bolster legalisation efforts around the world.
Ahead of today’s vote, he commented, ‘We will have the UN, the main drug policy body, recognising the medical usefulness of cannabis.’
The New York Times noted that many countries look to international conventions for guidance, suggesting the reclassification could have some knock-on effects when it comes to goverments’ opinions about cannabis.
Jessica Steinberg, managing director at the Global C, an international cannabis consulting group, noted that the move ‘does not mean that legalisation is just going to happen around the world’, but that it could be a ‘watershed moment’ for more conservative countries.
Though cannabis itself has been reclassified, the recommendation to add cannabis derivatives such as dronabinol and THC to Schedule I, the lower lever, did not receive enough support to pass.
Michael Krawitz, executive director for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, commented:
Continuing down this path not only denies our citizens important medicinal products that relieve suffering but also represents a betrayal of the public trust.
It has taken some time for the UN to reclassify cannabis after the WHO first made its recommendations in 2019, largely because the decision is considered controversial by many counties. The United States and European nations were among those in favour of the proposal, while China, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia were strongly against the move.
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New York Times
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