Update on Cannabis Rescheduling at the United Nations

In March 2020, the United Nations Committee on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was expected to vote on the WHO’s recommendations on the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis products during their annual meeting in Vienna, Austria. However, the CND decided to delay the vote until its next meeting in December 2020.  This marks the second time the vote was delayed. 

The CND is responsible for implementing international drug control treaties as well as making decisions about scheduling new substances as well as changing the scheduling of drugs. The CND bases these decisions on recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO makes their recommendations on the scheduling of drugs based on the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) critical review document.

Following the November 2018 meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD), the WHO recommended the rescheduling of cannabis and several cannabis-related substances in 2019. The CND was supposed to vote on the WHO’s recommendations in March 2019, however, the vote was postponed to provide the 53 country members of the CND more time to deliberate and ask the WHO questions about their recommendations. During CND intersessional meetings in June and September 2019, member states were able to ask the WHO questions about their recommendations. 

At that time, it was anticipated that the vote on the WHO’s recommendations would take place in December 2019 at the 62nd Reconvened Session of the CND. During this event, ASA coordinated a special reception for CND members and other UN delegates at the UN building during the CND session titled,  “Understanding the WHO’s Recommendations”. ASA moderated while Dr. Pavel Pachta, Dr. Pavel Kubu, and Dr. Dani Gordon discussed the WHO’s recommendations, the current patient experience, and the impact that the adoption of the WHO’s recommendations would have on laws and policies around the world. 

ASA also brought over a dozen medical cannabis patients from across the world to participate in this reception, meet with delegates, and watch the CND deliberations. In Vienna, ASA held a 4-hour training for our patient advocates at the CND where our experts gave background on the WHO’s recommendations, trained the medical cannabis patient representatives on how to advocate medical cannabis with high level UN delegates, and made suggestions on how to speak with reporters on the WHO’s recommendations. This training also became a conversation that explored what was happening in each person’s home country and how they were dealing with the challenges of their own governments.

Unfortunately, the adoption of the recommendations did not occur at the December 2019 or the March 2020 sessions, and the CND has decided to delay the vote again until December 2020.