World Health Organization Recommends International Reclassification of Marijuana


The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) has formally recommended that cannabis and cannabis related substances be removed the schedule IV of controlled substance and lowered to Schedule I.  Unlike the system in the U.S., schedule IV is the most restrictive category of drug which correlates to Schedule I in the US. After officially assessing all available evidence, they have issued their recommendations on the therapeutic value and potential harm related to cannabis and cannabis resin. This is groundbreaking and a rebuke to the original recommendation in 1961, classifying cannabis as a Schedule IV by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The Single Convention encourages governments across the globe to prohibit the production, distribution, and use of drugs in this Schedule, so this change in the WHO’s committee is significant.

The recommendation will get a vote on in March of 2019 or 2020 by 53 United Nations countries before the Single Convention on Narcotic Drug’s scheduling can be amended. The majority would have to agree, but indications are favorable this will happen, and a positive vote would solidify the international WHO’s recommendations. This means the United States is running out of excuses not reschedule cannabis, since the UN treaty will no longer affect rescheduling. Our government would no longer be able to refer to this international treaty as a reason for prohibiting the medical use of cannabis, and may even be obliged to ensure the adequate availability of cannabis for the relief of pain and suffering of patients as well as eliminating barriers to research.

However, the expert advice of the ECDD alone is a major step and further legitimizes cannabis as medicine. The Committee consists of an independent group of experts in the field of drugs and medicines and their recommendations are highly regarded. They assess the health risks and benefits of the use of psychoactive substances according to a set of fixed criteria which include evidence of dependence potential of the substance, actual abuse and/or evidence of likelihood of abuse, as well as therapeutic applications of the substance. No person or government should take their recommendations lightly.

FAAAT (For Alternative Approaches to Addiction, Think & Do Tank) is an international advocacy and research organization that addresses the policies of addiction and controlled/illicit drugs, plants, products or substances liable to produce harms or health disorders. They have worked on changing WHO’s stance on Cannabis for over a decade. Michael Krawitz (Global policy adviser, FAAAT) stated, “Today, the WHO has gone a long way towards setting the record straight. It is time for us all to support the World Health Organization’s recommendations and ensure politics don’t trump science. Advocates thank the WHO Experts for their work, and WHO leadership for consistently defending the medical needs of our world,” he said. CLICK HERE for link to the FAAAT release.

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