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UN Takes Cannabis Off Dangerous Drugs List



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The United Nations Commission for Narcotic Drugs voted Wednesday to remove medicinal cannabis from dangerous drug listings. This clears the way for marijuana to qualifying for funded research and medical use. The decision by the Vienna-based CND considered input from the World Health Organization. Specifically, the world body recommended its removal from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Schedule IV includes dangerous and highly addictive opioids like heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.

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Alfredo Pascual of Marijuana Business Daily said that “The world has changed since the early 1960s. We will have the U.N., the main drug policy body, recognizing the medical use of cannabis.” The Schedule IV inclusion of cannabis remains an obstacle to medical applications research. Once removed, it will also likely boost international legalization movements.


The 53-member states voted 27 in favor, 25 against, and one abstention. The US and European Community-led those who favored the declassification. Those who remained against the policy included Russia, China, Pakistan, Egypt, and Nigeria. Ukraine abstained. With the approval, cannabis ends its 59 years of strict control schedules. This also opens opportunities to fully explore cannabis' medical and therapeutic properties. 

The election contained its share of opposing opinions. China's delegate said they will continue controls “to protect from the harm and abuse.” The UK believes that the removal from Schedule IV is “in line with the scientific evidence of its therapeutic benefits.” However, the country remains in support of international controls. Marijuana still presents “serious public health risks.” 

Long Overdue

The CND originally scheduled the vote back in March 2019. However, many countries requested additional time to define their position. The WHO gave six recommendations on cannabis scheduling in UN drug control treaties. 

Before the vote, more than 50 countries have existing medicinal cannabis programs. Besides, Canada, Uruguay, and more than a third of US states legalized recreational use. Mexico and Luxembourg are about to join the first two and a third.

No Immediate Impact

Independent researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli said, “This is a huge, historic victory for us, we couldn’t hope for more.” Riboulet-Zemouli closely monitored the vote and the position of member states. The vote reinstates cannabis’ status as a drug with medicinal purposes. It will also help legalization efforts all over the world. However, the differing messages between members underline the complexities behind the decision. Riboulet-Zemouli noted that some countries switched positions before the vote. “It’s been a diplomatic circus,” he added. 

The vote remains a symbolic gesture and won’t change international controls. Governments will remain in control of their classification of cannabis. Since most countries look to the UN for global conventions, they see some changes on the horizon. Many drug policy advocates believe that international law on cannabis is obsolete.

Unique Pain Relief

Cannabis policy rapidly evolved over the last few years. More states and countries started legalizing marijuana, whether for therapeutic or recreational purposes. Investment firm Cowen predicts that the US market for both medicinal and recreational cannabis products will reach $34 billion by 2025. 

Michael Krawitz, executive director for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, said the change in international law would “help reduce the suffering of millions of people.” Cannabis is an important medication that gives unique pain relief. Krawitz said not removing cannabis from Schedule IV “not only denies our citizens important medicinal products that relieve suffering but also represents a betrayal of the public trust.” Also, it can help reduce reliance on opiates.

Do You Think it’s Time?

The removal of cannabis from the list of Schedule IV narcotics opens up possibilities. The news can help promote acceptance to more countries. Also, recognition can advance medical research. However, abuse of the drug will always remain a threat to legitimate users.

View the Bloomberg Quicktake featuring the UN as it votes to remove medical marijuana from its list of dangerous drugs:

Do you support the removal of cannabis from the UN list of dangerous drugs?

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Do you agree with the UN’s removal of cannabis as a dangerous narcotic? Let us know what you think about cannabis and its benefits and drawbacks. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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1 Comment

  • Dianne Mixon says:

    Yes! There are many people suffering from chronic pain and medical marijuana is not addicting like opiates. I refuse to take opiates and MM helps pain so well. It is time for the study of this plant to be studied for its’ many benefits!

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