Cannabis and Politics

2 December 2020

U.N. Recognises Medical Cannabis After 60 Year Ban

In what could be a watershed moment in cannabis fight for full legality and legitimacy, a United Nations Commission finally voted on Wednesday to remove cannabis for medical purposes from a category of the world’s most dangerous drugs.

U.N. Reclassifies Cannabis as a Less Dangerous Drug

The vote by the Commission for Narcotic Drugs which includes a total of 53 member states, considered several recommendations from the World Health Organization on reclassifying cannabis and its derivatives like CBD and THC.

However, attention was focussed on one principal key recommendation; To remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – where, preposterously, it had been classified as being as dangerous as highly addictive opioids like heroin.

The WHO first made the recommendations for changing marijuana’s classification in 2019 but had faced plenty of opposition with the subject, perhaps expectedly, proving to be a particularly divisive one.

Still, despite plenty of opposition from some parts of the world, the reclassification passed narrowly by 27 votes to 25, with Ukraine abstaining from the vote. Amongst those to support the changes were the United States. and other European nations like France and Spain, while those opposed, included China, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia.

Research Potential Set to Grow

The highly anticipated and long-delayed decision could open the doors for a significant expansion of marijuana research and medical use with cannabis advocates believing the vote represents an important change from what many saw as a grossly out-dated international law.

However, some experts have tempered excitement by suggesting that the vote to remove cannabis from the list of schedule IV classified drugs will have no immediate effect with respect to the potential loosening of international control, as individual governments of each member state will still have the final jurisdiction over how to classify cannabis.

Still, while this recognition from the U.N. has been described as a “symbolic victory” there has to be an expectation that the vote could lead to a significant expansion of medical research while a greater legitimacy in the fight to legalise cannabis across the globe has certainly been added with this historic decision.

UN votes in favour of cannabis reclassification after 60 year ban
The U.N. vote paves the way for cannabis to once again stand free of stigma and misinformation.

With many countries and lawmakers using global conventions like the U.N. as a guiding light when it comes to decision making and drug policy, it is expected that an easier path to cannabis legality could be on the horizon.

Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, an independent researcher for cannabis law who has been following the vote and the position of member states, declared his delight at the outcome.

“This is a huge, historic victory for us, we couldn’t hope for more,” 

Having been used throughout our history for medicinal purposes, the U.N. vote paves the way for cannabis to once again stand free of stigma and misinformation, and re-establish its footing as a natural, and important medicinal treatment that could benefit millions of people across our planet.

Another positive decision to emerge on Wednesday saw the commission reject a proposal to include the cannabis derivative THC in the 1961 convention, which would have tightened cannabis controls.

Medicinal Cannabis Use on the Rise

Thanks to increasing legality in countries like the U.S. and Canada, medicinal marijuana usages has exploded in recent years with both cannabis and products containing cannabis derivatives like CBD, becoming hugely popular as more natural alternatives to potentially addictive treatments like opioids and painkillers.

Indeed, it was recently reported that the U.S. CBD industry alone will be worth a staggering $16 billion by 2025.

Furthermore, the legalization of cannabis in many U.S. states for medical and recreational purposes has led to a significant rise in the use of medical cannabis, particularly among those aged 65 and over. The proportion of adults 65 years and older who reported using cannabis for medical purposes increased from 2.4% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2018, according to a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.

While attitudes and cannabis laws have begun to change rapidly in recent years, particularly with respect to its application as a medicinal treatment, it is now hoped that the potential for far greater and more in-depth research will now take place on the potentially therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

Already an existing treatment for several medical conditions, it is expected that with greater analysis, further revelations about cannabis natural efficacy will begin to emerge more rapidly in the coming months and years.

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Money Talks…

While the medicinal benefits of cannabis can no longer be ignored, as with many issues of life, the financial implications of the vote are certainly not lost on those who have pushed for the changes to cannabis classification.

In the U.S., which recently saw four further states introduce legalised access to medical and recreational use of marijuana, the cannabis market is expected to be worth more than $34 billion by 2025 according to financial experts Cowen.

Indeed, perhaps gaining inside knowledge of the events that would transpire this week, share prices in many of the biggest cannabis companies rocketed, in anticipation of the potentially ground-breaking change.

And while this decision will surely represent a significant boost for both the American and European marijuana marketplaces, it should also have a huge impact on countries where cannabis remains strictly prohibited with the U.N exerting a strong influence on nations in both Africa and the Caribbean.

Time will only tell, but today’s decision by the U.N. would appear to be one which could prove a hugely significant milestone in cannabis re-emergence as a valuable and respected medicinal treatment for millions across the globe.

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