In reviewing a series of World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on marijuana and its derivatives, the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted on Wednesday to reclassify cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — where it was listed alongside deadly, addictive opioids, including heroin.
The U.N. still deems cannabis a controlled substance. But the move, which the U.S. supported, could ease restrictions on research into marijuana’s therapeutic use. The CND’s 53 Member States, with an historic vote of 27 in favour, 25 against, and one abstention, voted to removed cannabis – where it had been placed for 59 years – from the strictest control schedules, that even discouraged its use for medical purposes, now, opened the door to recognizing the medicinal and therapeutic potential of the commonly-used but still largely illegal recreational drug.
The U.N. vote follows guidance from the World Health Organization and its expert committee on drug dependence, which had recommended deleting “cannabis and cannabis resin” from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The drug will now remain in Schedule I rather than appearing on both lists. The vote had been closely followed by marijuana activists and the burgeoning cannabis industry, as it could bolster arguments for easing legal restrictions on marijuana and establishing consistent regulations. Moreover, according to news reports, the decision could also drive additional scientific research into the plant’s long-heralded medicinal properties and act as catalyst for countries to legalize the drug for medicinal use, and reconsider laws on its recreational use.