United Nations Considers Cannabis as Medicine; Removes Cannabis from Schedule In Historic Decision

December 02, 2020 | Reenal Doshi

Removing from Schedule IV Will Have Far Reaching Impact on Medical Cannabis Patients Around the World


Washington, DC -- Today, a historic decision by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was made when it adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations to remove cannabis and its resin from Schedule IV under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, with the United States voting for the deletion from Schedule IV. A total of 27 countries voted in favor of removal from Schedule IV, 25 countries voted against, and one country abstained from voting (Ukraine). The Schedule IV placement is intended for drugs that are dangerous and lack therapeutic importance. 

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and its program, the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC), has been fighting to reschedule cannabis at the United Nations for over a decade and even created their own critical review in 2016 that was delivered to the UN, which helped prompt the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) to begin their pre-review process to look at the science and policies related to medical cannabis. 

After much pressure, the independent, scientific advisory body to the WHO, the ECDD, was able to conduct a rigorous, evidence-based, and multi-year review of cannabis and its resin that ultimately determined that the WHO should recommend to the CND that they be removed from Schedule IV. This decision will now put much needed pressure on the United States government to reschedule cannabis from the very outdated Control Substances Act, which does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational use of cannabis.

“After six decades since its placement into the strictest international category, and three years of review, the UN has finally made the decision to recognize the therapeutic value of cannabis. This is a momentous occasion for cannabis advocates everywhere who have been fighting for this change for many years. 

“The placement of cannabis and its resin in Schedule IV was outdated, not based on scientific evidence, and harmful to the millions of patients around the world who use it for therapeutic purposes. 

“The WHO’s function is to give us scientific guidance, and countries that voted against the WHO’s recommendations are playing politics instead of using rational policy,” said Steph Sherer, president and founder of Americans for Safe Access and the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition

The adoption of this recommendation by the CND has far and wide implications for medical cannabis patients in the United States and around the world:

  • Countries will now allow more research of cannabis for medical use.
  • Countries that have not yet provided access to medical cannabis will no longer be able to use this archaic Scheduling as an excuse to block medical cannabis reform.
  • Countries can finally work to move past some of the harms inflicted on medical cannabis patients, including incarceration, fines, and negative stigma.

The CND is made up of 53 member countries and is responsible for implementing international drug control treaties as well as the scheduling of drugs. The CND is supposed to base these decisions on recommendations from the WHO. In January 2019, the WHO determined, as one of the recommendations, that cannabis and cannabis resin should be removed from Schedule IV of the Single Convention.



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