U.N. Overturns 60-Year Classification of Cannabis

Today, the United Nations (U.N.) Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 drug Convention treaty. The decision comes six decades after its placement, and opens doors for greater research into the potential therapeutic value of the medicinal plant. Taking it off the Schedule IV list means cannabis is no longer considered “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects.” 

The U.N. vote in Vienna — with 27 countries in favor including the United States, 25 against, and one abstention — followed an independent scientific assessment undertaken by world leading experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), and upheld a WHO proposal to remove it from Schedule IV classification. 

The move by the U.N. indicates an evolution in international perception of cannabis policy. This said, cannabis remains under the separate Schedule I of the international drug control system.

Industry experts expect the U.N. vote to inspire further research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis. More actions are required for U.N. member nations to move forward with legalizing medical marijuana. But today’s vote is a first step toward what could eventually create future worldwide business opportunities. 

Today’s “historic vote in Vienna could have far-reaching implications for the global medical cannabis industry, ranging from regulatory oversight to scientific research into the plant and its use as a medicine,” wrote Alfredo Pascual at Marijuana Business Daily. “The result carries broad symbolic significance for medical cannabis, as it could help boost medical cannabis legalization efforts around the globe now that the CND tacitly acknowledges the medical utility of the drug.”

As stated by the nonprofit FAAAT, which has been actively engaged since 2015 to ensure cannabis is taken out of Schedule IV classification: “Schedule IV for cannabis is a relic of the most extreme international drug laws inherited from 1950s morals and is representative of long discredited value systems connected to racism, intolerance, disrespect for indigenous peoples and cultures that were the hallmark of the colonial age.”

FAAAT heralded the U.N.’s removal of cannabis from Schedule IV as “phenomenal news for millions of patients around the world and a historical victory of science over politics.”