Kanna Knowledge would be remiss in this issue if we didn’t give a small shout-out to the United Nations. After more than two years of debate, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the UN’s drug policy body, has just voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961-era Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs. Which means it has taken nearly 60 years for the UN to recognize cannabis has a therapeutic purpose, and does not belong in the category of the most dangerous substances such as heroin.
So it’s a small victory for the cannabis industry, although there is still a long road ahead before international legalization can ever be possible. The vote was close: 27-25. The United States, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom all approved the measure, with Russia, China, Brazil and Japan all voting against. Cannabis, however, remains a Schedule I drug, along with cocaine, heroin and opium, for having addictive properties and a serious risk of abuse — even though the World Health Organization had recommended cannabis be taken off schedule because it is less harmful than the other Schedule 1 drugs.
The consensus of most UN Member States for leaving cannabis on Schedule 1 is, as stated by Japan, that “non-medical use might give rise to negative health and social impacts, especially among youth.” Yet with the medical benefits of cannabis finally given their due, there is visible movement by many countries to improve access to medical cannabis.
In Africa, the health ministry of Uganda has issued guidelines for cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes — and neighboring African nations including Zambia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe are easing their own growing restrictions on medical cannabis. In Asia, Thailand — where medical cannabis is legal in spite of the country’s strict drug penalties — has just allowed cannabis to be used in cosmetics and cooking. There are now more than 50 countries where medical cannabis has been made legal.
Of course, cannabis has been grown for medical, therapeutic and religious purposes for centuries in many overseas communities that are yet to revise their own substance classifications. But this portends well for more UN members to do just that in the months to come. This UN action should give the international community more reason to make investments in medical cannabis, and it does set the direction for future movement.