In a report dated 26 January 2019, the World Health Organisation recommended that cannabis be reclassified in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This would lead to the reclassification of cannabinoid preparations and extracts, too.
Over 3 years of debate
The WHO, the UN’s health institution, has been studying cannabis and its classification in Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs for years now. In 2016, the Organisation launched a process to review the status of cannabis via the Expert Committee on Dependence-Producing Drugs. Just over three years later, this Expert Committee has come out in favour of reclassifying cannabis and its derivative products through a letter written by the Director-General of the WHO.
Cannabis: a product with no harmful effects
Up until now, cannabis was placed in the highest category (Schedule IV) alongside heroine, but is now set to be moved to Schedule I. It would go from being a substance with significant harmful effects and no therapeutic value to a non-harmful product with potential therapeutic applications. Although cannabis will remain a narcotic drug, its conditions for use and those of its derivative may be simplified. This mainly concerns dronabinol, which was in Schedule II until now, and cannabis tinctures and extracts, hitherto classified in Schedule I.
What about CBD?
Although products containing just CBD were not classed as narcotic drugs, they needed to be studied by the Expert Committee on Dependence-Producing drugs before being ruled out from the narcotic drugs list definitively. Now, this report recommends ruling CBD out from the products classified by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs definitively. With this recommendation, the WHO is definitively settling the CBD debate by classing it as a consumer product, subject to the rules of each country. The only condition, which has already been applied in France, is that these products must not contain more than 0.2% THC.
What will be the consequences internationally?
Before being implemented, these recommendations must be approved by the 53 member countries of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which met in 2019. Although UN member countries are not obligated to apply this review, such a modification to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs may accelerate the reforms being carried out all over the world. This is certain to have a great impact in France, at a time when cannabis is at the centre of a host of debates.