UN’s approval of WHO recommendation will stimulate medical cannabis research opportunities


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

As we entered the month of December, the cannabis industry experienced a stroke of luck. Why? Because on December 2, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted to approve a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation that officially eliminated the plant from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Otherwise known as “Recommendation 5.1”, the proposal is one of six that were voted on by 53 current member states of the CND; 27 voted in favor of the proposal, 25 voted in opposition of it and one abstained against voting. Its passing is anticipated to unlock new research opportunities into the plant’s therapeutic potential.

Back in November of last year, a House version of the bill to reschedule cannabis sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) received a positive committee vote. A House floor vote was set to take place in September, but was delayed until after the election. 

What cannabis-related proposals were rejected by the CND?

Initially, the WHO put forward six cannabis recommendations in January 2019. Let’s take a look at the fate of the other proposals:

  • Recommendation 5.2 (23 votes in favor, 28 votes against and two abstentions) This proposal would have moved THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) from the 1971 convention to the 1961 treaty.
  • Recommendations 5.3 and 5.6 (dismissed without a vote) Both recommendations were linked to Recommendation 5.2; they were rejected due to the unsuccessful vote for Recommendation 5.2
  • Recommendation 5.4 (24 votes in favor, 27 against and two abstentions) According to the WHO, this cannabis-related proposal was not intended “to decrease the level of control of any cannabis-related substance or narrow the scope of control.” The proposal sought to eliminate “extracts and tinctures of cannabis” from the 1961 treaty.
  • Recommendation 5.5 (six votes in favor, 43 against and four abstentions) Had this proposal passed, confusion surrounding the legality of CBD (cannabidiol) preparations that contain traces of THC could have been resolved.
  • Recommendation 5.6 (dismissed without a vote) This cannabis-related proposal centered around classifying specific THC pharmaceutical preparations in Schedule III of the 1961 treaty.

UN cannabis vote could have a snowball effect

In 2019, the WHO recommended that cannabis and THC be transferred from Schedule IV to Schedule I. However, the recent December 2 vote to reschedule cannabis marks the first time that global restrictions have ever been loosened. The major cannabis shift is likely to send pot stocks skyrocketing, not to mention attract new investor interest. 

Researchers are sure to rejoice now that the green plant has been banished from Schedule IV, since it will open the door for studies and trials to commence; up until now, medical cannabis research efforts have been stifled by the plant’s federal status. With the CND now acknowledging the plant’s medical potential, countries around the world could also start warming up to the idea of reclassifying cannabis

Furthermore, member states will now have the freedom to reconsider their own cannabis laws. On the other hand, many advocates argue that the other cannabis-related proposals should have also been considered.