Cannabis is controlled by the 1961 UN Drugs Convention and has been categorized as a drug with “particularly dangerous properties”. This has made cannabis illegal to use, manufacture and sell in most parts of the world.
The UN Commission voted to change the classification of cannabis by 27 to 25 votes, one country voted abstaining, and the decision is based on recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO) last year.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and South Africa were among those who voted in favour, while countries including Brazil, China, Russia and Pakistan voted against.
Members also rejected other four other recommendations from WHO about cannabis and its derivatives, which included removing extracts and tinctures of cannabis from Schedule I status and classifying a psychoactive component of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
Ambassador Khan @ambmansoorkhan, @CND_tweets Chair, opens the 63rd reconvened session – starting with the voting on @WHO scheduling recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances @UNODC @UN_Vienna. Webcast: https://t.co/KMteoWuPpF pic.twitter.com/HOdQvhcZ8X
— CND (@CND_tweets) December 2, 2020
According to NPR, the WHO committee stated that while cannabis can cause dependence and have adverse effects, there is something to be said about its benefits, which includes reducing pain and nausea, in addition to easing symptoms of medical conditions such as anorexia, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. The committee cited its “limited robust scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis.”
The strategic mention of “limited robust scientific evidence” suggests that if the U.N. were to move cannabis off the Schedule IV substance list, it would open the door for further research on a potentially global scale into the drug’s medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
CND has not legalized cannabis. It is still on the list of substances that are “highly addictive and can lead to abuse”.
This means that the legal production and sale of cannabis will still be limited to research and medical use under international law.