Will Historic UN Vote Help Grow Cannabis?

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Photo by Frederic Köberl on Unsplash

In a significant move forward for cannabis research and legalization, a United Nations Commission voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. What does the vote mean for the future of cannabis?

While some may view the vote as largely symbolic, the historic vote speaks directly to the recognized value and therapeutic potential of cannabis.

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs vote followed a January 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resins from Schedule IV. In making the recommendation, the WHO recognized the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

The United States voted in favor of the removal which passed 27 to 25 (with 1 abstention). In a statement explaining its vote, the US noted, “the legitimate medical use of a cannabis preparation has been established through scientific research, and cannabis no longer meets the criterion for placement in Schedule IV of the Single Convention.”

The Schedule IV classification had placed cannabis in the strictest control schedule that discouraged use even for medicinal purposes. The vote will likely spur additional research regarding the therapeutic and palliative benefits of cannabis. In fact, in explaining its vote, the US specifically cited “the potential to stimulate global research into the therapeutic potential and public health effects of cannabis, and to attract additional investigators to the field, including those who may have been deterred by the Schedule IV status of cannabis.“

While individual governments will continue to debate the legalization of cannabis, the UN vote provides clear evidence of a changing landscape favoring legalization efforts worldwide. In fact, on the same day as the UN vote, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, H.R. 3884, cleared the House Rules Committee and is headed for a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Among other things, the MORE Act aims to remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act.

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