The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to reclassify cannabis Wednesday, taking it off the strict Schedule IV list that includes dangerous and highly addictive drugs such as heroin. The U.N. still deems cannabis a controlled substance. But the move, which the U.S. supported, could ease restrictions on research into marijuana’s therapeutic use.
The 53-member commission approved the change in a close vote, by 27-25, with 1 abstention. Russia was a vocal opponent of the move, calling cannabis “the most abused drug globally.”
The U.N. vote follows guidance from the World Health Organization and its expert committee on drug dependence, which had recommended deleting “cannabis and cannabis resin” from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The drug will now remain in Schedule I rather than appearing on both lists.
The vote had been closely followed by marijuana activists and the burgeoning cannabis industry, as it could bolster arguments for easing legal restrictions on marijuana and establishing consistent regulations.
Clearing the way for research
Support comes from
In its recommendation to the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the WHO committee noted that cannabis can have adverse effects and cause dependence. But it also cited the drug’s benefits in reducing pain and nausea, as well as easing symptoms of medical conditions such as anorexia, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. And it noted that unlike opioids such as fentanyl, cannabis is not associated with a significant risk of death.
The committee said, “the inclusion of cannabis and cannabis resin in Schedule IV is not consistent with the criteria for a drug to be placed in Schedule IV.”
The WHO committee also said that despite “limited robust scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis,” the drug has been shown to be different from Schedule IV substances that have little