A vote at the United Nations has resulted in cannabis and cannabis resin being removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. A move that will lead to increased research in the medicinal value of cannabis.
On Wednesday the governing body of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, after recommendation from experts and The World Health Organisation, voted by 27 to 25 to remove cannabis from a list of the world’s most high-risk drugs. The existing classification includes cannabis alongside dangerous addictive opioids like cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, methadone, and morphine. However, cannabis will remain a banned substance for recreational use under UN law.
The decision to remove the commonly-used but still largely illegal recreational drug from Schedule IV may see a rise in countries contributing more time and resources to scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, as well as increasing different country’s access to cannabis-based medicines. This may also see a rise in countries changing their laws around recreational cannabis use.
Currently, there are more than 50 countries worldwide that are utilising cannabis for medicinal benefits. Mexico and Luxembourg are close to legalising cannabis for recreational use, while Canada, Uruguay, and 15 US states have already made that step. Many other countries have started decriminalising cannabis possession as public opinions become more relaxed.
The executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium Anna Fordham said the drug’s recognition as a medicine was “long overdue”. The market for cannabis-based medicines has been growing in recent years, with more people utilizing the plant for its therapeutic purposes.
While the medical uses have now been acknowledged, The WHO has recommended that the non-medical use of cannabis is restricted. For now, cannabis remains in Schedule 1, due to “the high rates of public health problems arising from cannabis use”.