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The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs has rejected a proposal by the World Health Organization to change the way cannabis is controlled internationally. The World Health Organization recently recommended a change to how cannabis is controlled in two international treaties. The goal of the proposal was to remove international control from CBD preparations with less than 0.2% THC.

The proposal, Recommendation 5.5, would have added a footnote to the international treaty, The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which prohibits the production and supply of specific drugs. Out of the 53 members of the UN’s main drug policymaking body, 43 countries voted against the proposal, six countries voted in favor, and four countries abstained.

Among the countries who voted against the proposal were the United States and, on behalf of the European Union, Germany. The U.S. and Germany both said the wording of the World Health Organization’s proposal was too unclear to pass. According to Ambassador Gerhard Kuentzle, representative for the EU, because of the way the proposed footnote is worded, it doesn’t exclude divergent interpretations of the footnote.

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What does this mean for the future of the proposal?

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs is willing to revisit the World Health Organization’s proposal again at a later date. Ambassador Kuentzle says the UN currently recommends that the proposal be redrafted to include the legal certainty and the necessary solutions for producing cannabidiol. Kuentzle says they welcome more consultation on the appropriate level of international control on cannabis.

Ethan Glick, the U.S. counselor for UN affairs, agrees that the proposal will need to be revised before it can be approved. Legal and procedural grounds were the basis of the country’s dissenting vote, not because the U.S. disputes the scientific basis for the proposal. Glick says it’s not the United States’ position that cannabidiol should be under the control of international drug conventions and that cannabidiol hasn’t shown abuse potential. However, the legal grounds of the proposal will need to be changed to be more specific before it can be revisited.

The proposal’s rejection is still a win for cannabis

While on the surface, the rejection of Recommendation 5.5 may seem like a loss, the reasoning behind the rejection still offers positive implications for the future of cannabis. In the same 1961 treaty, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted in favor of removing cannabis from Schedule IV. This removes cannabis from being internationally controlled the same way as heroin.

What’s more, because the rejection of WHO’s proposal is largely in part because of legal grounds and wording rather than scientific objections, there’s a greater chance the proposal may pass the next time it’s made. Up to 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 use CBD oil, CBD gummies, hemp smokes, and other cannabis products. According to Martin Jelsma, the drugs and democracy program director at the Transnational Institute, the removal of cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 treaty will give cannabis another boost.

 

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