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World Shifting on Marijuana? UN to Review Classification of Marijuana

close up photo of green marijuana plant
The United Nations is reviewing the classification of marijuana which could trigger a similar review in the U.S.

The United Nations (UN) is launching its first ever review of marijuana’s classification under international drug treaties. The move comes just after the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) announced that cannabidiol (CBD) does not need to be regulated and controlled under international agreements.  CBD is an active compound found in marijuana used for medical purposes.

According to WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO decided that medications with pure CBD should not be listed under the International Drug Control Conventions.  He added a Critical Review of hashish, cannabis extracts, THC and marijuana is warranted based on relevant evidence.

1962 Categorization of Marijuana Misinformed?

WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) had initially conducted a pre-review of pure CBD in June to first determine if there was enough evidence to pursue a more thorough review. Upon the WHO’s determination that there was, a Critical Review is now scheduled for November. After the review, the UN either determines a substance should be placed under international control or changes its level of control.

To conduct the reviews the ECDD analyses the chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, epidemiology and therapeutic use of the substances.

If the UN changes the status of marijuana under international treaties, it would trigger a similar review in the U.S. based on the provisions of the U.S.’ Controlled Substances Act. Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access explained the importance of reviewing marijuana’s status in the U.S.

“Thankfully the World Health Organization has accepted the challenge of evaluating the placement of cannabis in the 1962 Single Convention treaty,” Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access told Marijuana Moment. “Cannabis placement in the treaty was done in the absence of scientific evaluation and has provided the basis for a moral campaign against drugs by the USA for many decades. Since our work on medical access to cannabis has been based upon scientific inquiry we know that any rational assessment of the evidence leads the observer to understand cannabis indeed has proven medicinal value and, compared to other medicines, has profoundly fewer negative side effects.”

Initial WHO Response Positive on Marijuana

The WHO extolled the benefits of CBD in a letter announcing its plan to review marijuana.

“Several countries permit the use of cannabis for the treatment of medical conditions such as back pain, sleep disorders, depression, post-injury pain, and multiple sclerosis,” Marijuana Moment reported the document as saying. “The evidence presented to the Committee did not indicate that cannabis plant and cannabis resin were liable to produce ill-effects similar to these other substances that are in Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The inclusion of cannabis and cannabis resin in Schedule IV may not appear to be consistent with the criteria for Schedule IV.”

“There are no case reports of abuse or dependence relating to the use of pure CBD. No public health problems have been associated with CBD use,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote. “CBD has been found to be generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”

ECDD experts also noted that while CBD might be medically beneficial, whole-plant marijuana and resin might have adverse effects and can cause physical addiction but might still be misclassified under international treaties.

 

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