UN Leaves the Cannabis Industry Waiting

UN cannabis industry

UN Leaves the Cannabis Industry Waiting

A further delay means the international status of CBD and THC is still undecided, as CBD-Intel reports.

The United Nations’ central drug policy agency has declined to reveal why it again postponed a vote on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations to relax restrictions on cannabis and related substances such as CBD and THC.

But it’s clear that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) decided to delay the vote until December 2020 because of deep divisions among its 53 members over the cannabis rescheduling proposals. It’s the second time the CND has refused to vote on the recommendations, which the WHO unveiled in January 2019.

The issue pits CND members, such as the US and the European Union, where medical cannabis is becoming mainstream, against nations including Russia and China, which are concerned about “the dangers and risks of abuse of cannabis”.

If the vote planned for earlier this year had taken place, it would probably have quashed the recommendation that, among other things, cannabis should be reclassified in the international drug control framework to make it easier to trade for medicinal and scientific purposes.

“This is a very important but, at the same time, very sensitive issue because of the divergent opinions – not only among the states, but among the people in general,” CND chairman Mansoor Ahmad Khan told the meeting in Vienna.

The WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence recommended that pure CBD containing less than 0.2% THC should be removed from all international drug control conventions. It also requested a lesser scheduling for pharmaceutical preparations containing THC (dronabinol) as well as further changes to other aspects of cannabis and cannabinoid scheduling.

Which countries are ready for cannabis vote?

The EU and the UK, as well as Jamaica, Mexico, Switzerland and Uruguay all said they were ready to vote on the WHO recommendations. James Walsh of the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs urged members to use the coming months “productively” so they “arrived at the reconvened session in December prepared to cast their votes”.

Governments will continue to discuss the recommendations over the next months in hope of finally voting on the proposals later this year, a UN spokeswoman told CBD-Intel.

The CND must be able to respond to all WHO recommendations “in a timely manner”, Walsh told the commission on the first day of its meeting in Vienna. “This includes making difficult decisions on cannabis, so the commission can return its focus to more urgent drug control threats that are killing many of our citizens and undermining our security and public health,” he said.

But countries that oppose the WHO proposals or are simply not yet ready to vote on them outnumber proponents by far. Nations including Russia, Singapore and Nigeria said there was no “strong evidence” or “convincing argument” to back up the recommendations and that cannabis is “the most abused drug in the world”.

Several made remarks about the “social, legal, administrative” and other implications of accepting the WHO proposals. Walsh, however, argued that not doing anything would weaken the international drug control system.

“The WHO recommendations have drawn our attention to important questions regarding the proper administration of the drug control system,” he said. “In the absence of a timely response from the CND, these questions may give rise to discrepancies and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by traffickers.”

What does it all mean for the CBD industry?

A further postponement only adds to the ongoing lack of clarity for CBD on the international stage. But most supporters of the measure seem to think that overall, it is a good thing as they believe a vote would not have been passed at this stage.

Whether a further delay will do much to change the current projected vote distribution remains to be seen. There are some positive signs from strong opponents such as Russia and China – particularly on the issue of CBD. Other nations such as Singapore show little inclination to move from their hard-line prohibitionist stance.

Contributed by CBD-Intel.

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