On 2 December, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to adopt recommendation 5.1 of the WHO. Though long overdue, this will give hope to millions of people whose suffering is eased by cannabis. With the removal of cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention, the medicinal usefulness of cannabis can no longer be denied. This strengthens the international legal basis for medicinal cannabis programmes, which can now be found in more than 50 countries.
Nevertheless, the journey is far from over. Cannabis remains in Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention, even though the WHO’s scientific assessment shows that cannabis does not present the same level of health risks of most drugs placed under that schedule. The six-year review process also fails to challenge the colonial legacy of cannabis prohibition. We need a follow-up process and regular updates of the critical review of cannabis-related substances to address the gaps in the WHO’s recommendations, for the sake of improving the treaty system as a whole.