On Wednesday 2nd December 2020 the United Nations Commission for Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from a category of the world’s “most dangerous drugs”, schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic drugs.
This historical reclassification was both well-sought-after and long-delayed, but this week passed 27 to 25 (the commission is based in Vienna and includes 53 member states), with countries including the UK voting in favour of the motion, and followed independent scientific assessment in 2017-2018 where evidence and testimonials worldwide on cannabis were considered.
For context, cannabis was placed into Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs without scientific assessment. At a time when racist prohibition-era politics welded intolerance and locked people up for using drugs; cannabis was categorised alongside the most harmful, and has suffered the effects of this classification as subsequent generations have been legally prohibited from the plant and its benefits.
In recent years, however, several countries have moved to legalised either medicinally or recreationally, with positive results for citizens.
This UN Committee vote is historical as it shows the United Nations finally acknowledges the therapeutic value of cannabis, which is going to help improve international pressures and get more patients access to cannabis-based medicines, a move which is brilliant news for millions of patients already using cannabis therapeutically.
However, it is not completely cut and dry, as cannabis will remain in Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which leaves it under the same strict controls as heroin and cocaine. Another proposal was rejected by the committee which would have seen THC added into the 1961 convention, and in other areas experts have stated that the vote does not go far enough to ensure a new approach to cannabis worldwide.
Governments in each Country still have ultimate control on cannabis policy and classification, but as many states look at global conventions this UN recognition could help inspire real change.
Michael Krawitz, Executive Director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (USA) stated: “As a medical patient myself I know how necessary this change in international law is, to help reduce the suffering of millions of people and how it adds a much-needed pain treatment with promise in mitigating reliance on opiates at a key moment in history.
As always, we will be keeping an eye on developments to see what this means for legalisation efforts in the UK. In recent years we have witnessed a softening approach, particularly with medical cannabis which can now be obtained in the UK with a private prescription. This is a big from the “Cannabis has no medicinal benefits” response which used to be so common when questions on medical cannabis cropped up.
So was nice to see the UK on the ‘good’ side for once when it comes to cannabis, joining other progressive Nations seeking a more sensible, greener future with a positive motion to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic drugs.