Categories: CannabisGeneral News

Rescheduling of Cannabis: WHO and UN at Crossroads

The World Health Organization (WHO) has come to mainstream attention recently. This is mostly due to the key involvement of WHO in the whole COVID situation. WHO has recently found itself at the center of many public health and political controversies regarding the pandemic.

But looking over pandemics isn’t all that WHO does. WHO actually has a lot on its plate. One of these things is the consideration of cannabis as a controlled substance globally. WHO performs this function through the United Nations.

In January 2019, WHO took an important step regarding the rescheduling status of cannabis. WHO explicitly recommended the rescheduling of cannabis. It also clearly expressed its point of view upon cannabinoids, like CBD and THC.

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However, the United Nations hasn’t been too keen on taking any action on the WHO’s recommendation. This delay by the UN has created some confusion worldwide and also invites an obvious question: Is the world on the verge of global cannabis reforms or not?

One of the most important developments in the war against drugs is the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. It is an international treaty that prohibits the production and supply of substances that can be abused as drugs or that have a similar sensation. There is only one exception in the production and supply of these substances and that is under governmental licenses. However, these licenses are for specific purposes as well, such as research and medical uses.

Shortcomings of the Single Convention 1961

Under this act, Cannabis has been listed as a harmful substance with a high potential for abuse. The act further states that cannabis has no medicinal benefit whatsoever. Cannabis has been put alongside the notorious cocaine and heroin.

However, the Single Convention has become outdated in a number of ways. For example, the UN Convention does not differentiate between marijuana or hemp or allow certain legal variations that occur in the United States, but describes the drug as “cannabis,” and in general speaks on the legality of its various uses.

Therefore, it excludes most “industrial” cannabis uses, or what people in the United States think of as non-psychoactive hemp, from UN regulation. Such industrial uses may include fiber, bioplastic, paper pulp, and biofuels applications.

WHO’s Role

The United Nations created the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to amend these shortcomings. This is where WHO plays its role. International Law dictates that substances like cannabis be tested thoroughly for all the risks and benefits.

In 2019, WHO recommended CND to reschedule cannabis and remove cannabis resin from Section 4 of the Single Convention 1961. WHO also recommended that THC be relocated under Schedule 1 of the Single Convention. The report suggested that substances that contain up to 0.2% THC should be rescheduled and not come under drug control conventions.

However, it is true that policymaking is a time-consuming process. Moreover, CND is looking to get a vote on WHO’s recommendations coming December. However, the WHO’s recommendations could have a very minimal impact on international drug controls. Some of these recommendations could even tighten the criteria to some extent.

But, these steps by WHO is a start nonetheless. Rescheduling of cannabis is more important than ever now. However, policymaking is a process that needs a lot of patience. The prospects of cannabis have recently come to light and have shaken the world. It is true that these reforms won’t be made within days, but it is also true that it’s a step in the right direction and going back won’t be that easy.

Ahmed Hassan

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