From December 2 to 4, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will vote for or against the latest recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO) to modify the regulation that governs under the current agreements regarding cannabis.
The recommendations were originally presented by WHO in 2019 and a vote was to take place in February of that year, but several nations, including the United States, requested more time to study the proposal in depth. The vote moved to March 2020, but due to the pandemic it had to be postponed again.
The December 2 vote will revolve around the decrease in the degree of severity that UNODC currently gives to substances with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD), including cannabis-based pharmaceuticals such as Marinol, Syndrox and Sativex.
Although cannabis contains more than 100 types of cannabinoids, it is THC and CBD that stand out for their effects and legal situation. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis with medicinal properties and responsible for the psychotropic effects caused by marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive and has antipsychotic and anti-inflammatory properties without generating the effects caused by THC, making it one of the most sought-after components for medicinal uses.
Among its recommendations, the WHO requests that all forms of THC be removed from category IV of the 1961 drug convention, the one with the highest degree of severity, and that the substance be placed under category I, the least restrictive of the classifications for UNODC.
Although the vote has not yet been guaranteed to favor WHO recommendations, it would be a major step in decriminalization worldwide. Although carrying marijuana is no longer considered a felony in most of the West, in some countries users may be subject to fines and penalties for mere tenure.
Nations where marijuana possession was previously punished with prison have radically changed their positions. This is the case of Thailand, where at the time the ban gave way to draconian measures to suppress its consumption, but today not only has the pursuit of the carrying and consumption of marijuana ceased, but it seeks to establish an entire medical industry around of medicinal cannabis.
Other countries such as Mexico and Colombia that have historically been the epicenter of the war on drugs seek alternatives for the medicinal cannabis market. Recently, in Colombia congress debated to regulate recreational marijuana, but the vote did not favor the proposal. For its part, in Mexico the Senate approved regulating marijuana use and legalized its carrying for up to 27 grams.
A problematic footer in cannabis regulation
The WHO proposal considers adding a footer to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs regarding CBD: “Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol (CBD) and not more than 0. 2% of tetrahydrocannabinol delta-9 are not under international control. “.
Both the American and the European representation find this point problematic, which would force legislation to establish regulations on other substances, instead of assuming that the current regulation applies to them independently if they are explicitly mentioned or not.
US authorities said they want to avoid setting “a precedent that the CND now has to start adding footnotes, which would displace the presumption that things are not controlled unless explicitly stated to be controlled.”. In other words, US officials see that if CBD were specified within the current agreement, it would indicate that another series of substances had to be regulated, instead of assuming that they are already regulated under the current agreements.
Although the United States itself is considering the decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level, the vote in favor of the current regulatory change in UNODC is not yet a fact. If voting on the WHO concept is favorable, this could start many countries rethinking the regulation they currently have regarding cannabis.