The United Nations is poised to delay a vote on the World Health Organization’s cannabis scheduling recommendations for a second time.
Cannabis is currently classified as Schedule IV. It is the most restrictive schedule, reserved for substances of negligible medical value. Last year, the WHO recommended that it be moved to Schedule I, the least restrictive schedule, which includes substances with a medical value. It also recommended descheduling cannabis that is high in CBD but low in THC.
The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was initially set to consider rescheduling cannabis at its annual meeting in March 2019. However, it was pushed back to 2020 to allow more time for member states to review the WHO recommendations.
The CND was then expected to vote this week on the recommendations. However, it has now decided to postpone the vote once more. It is now earmarked for a session in December 2020.
The reason given for the delay is to “clarify the implications” of the WHO recommendations and preserve the integrity of the scheduling system. The document stands at 90 pages in total, so there is much for members to pour over.
The U.S. voiced its frustration at the delay. James A. Walsh, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said it is time for the UN to make “difficult decisions” on marijuana.
The U.S. wants the UN to move past this subject so that it can train its focus on “more urgent” drug threats, such as fentanyl, which are killing American citizens in an opioid epidemic.
“We do regret that the CND was unable to take action on the WHO cannabis recommendations this week, given that Member States have been working hard since February 2019 to engage in an in-depth consultative process on the legal, administrative, social, and economic impacts of the recommendations,” said Walsh.
He reiterated the urgency of the situation, and said member states must be fully prepared to cast their votes at the meeting in December.
If the WHO recommendations are adopted, it would amount to the first rescheduling of cannabis since the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was created in 1961.
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