The World Health Organization Takes First Steps to Reschedule Cannabis

International Medical Cannabis Advocates Address WHO Committee Set to Advise UN

Geneva, Switzerland — Yesterday, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), along with members of the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC), attended and delivered testimony at the 40th meeting of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) being held in Geneva, Switzerland, June 4-7th, 2018.

In a milestone moment for medical cannabis patients, the ECDD will be reviewing and assessing the medical uses and harms of Cannabis, in order to recommend the most appropriate classification to be applied internationally. The agenda of the meeting is dedicated to carrying out pre-reviews of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. Members of ASA and IMCPC produced and delivered 1 Critical Review and 3 Pre-Review reports on Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabis plant and cannabis resin, Extracts and tinctures of cannabis, and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which included references and recommendations for the committee to use in their review.

This critical work is long overdue considering the original scheduling of cannabis was created based on a report created by the Health Committee of the League of Nations in 1935 and international bodies have been calling on the WHO to address the scheduling of cannabis for almost a decade. In 2009, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in its Resolution 52/5, requested an updated review by ECDD and in 2013, the International Narcotics Control Board in its annual report, invited WHO, in view of its mandate under the 1961 Convention, to evaluate “the potential medical utility of cannabis and the extent to which cannabis poses dangers to human health.” Cannabis is currently scheduled in Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol (the “Single Convention”).

The Critical Review and 3 Pre-Review reports are responses to the WHO’s ECDD technical documents, which outline the medical efficacy, toxicology, and epidemiology of various preparations of cannabis (WHO reports can be downloaded here).

During the meeting, medical cannabis patient advocacy groups from Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, France, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the United States presented to world leaders in an effort to recommend changes in the international scheduling of these cannabis preparations and products. All were excited that the ECDD were finally starting this process of looking at new information regarding cannabis as medicine.

“The current international policies on cannabis are outdated and are having a detrimental impact on patients in the United States and worldwide,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, “Furthermore these policies do not reflect the reality of over 30 countries globally that have passed medical cannabis laws.”

“The reports posted by WHO are supportive of nations considering rescheduling or de-scheduling CBD, pure-THC, cannabis, and cannabis extracts,” said ASA Chief Science Officer, Jahan Marcu, Phd., “Hopefully, the work of the WHO will allow international leaders to expand access with policy recommendations and changes with reports showing that the public health risk of cannabis and its extracts are minimal.”

Further Information:

Response to Pre-review: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol

Response to Pre-review: Extracts and tinctures of cannabis

Response to Critical Review: Cannabidiol

Response to Pre-review: Cannabis plant and resin


International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC)’s UNGASS 2016 Declaration delivered to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna March 2015.