Press release — History made today: UN recognizes medical cannabis

Although we believe correcting the record was inevitable – the overwhelming evidence would lead to no other outcome – government’s failure to accept the more advanced WHO proposals is disappointing and represents a lost opportunity to make the treaty best fit to purpose. However, none of today’s negative votes will result in any worsening of controls over cannabis whatsoever.

Some of these recommendations [2], which would have brought plant-based cannabis medicines into a more level-playing field with their synthetic copies (currently at advantage) actually had a good chance to be adopted… But in the last week the Pakistani ambassador (chairing the UN Commission tasked with the vote) applied brute force to the process by inserting a Russian proposal which led to the vote being held “in deviation from the standard rules of procedure” [3] –unprecedented in the 75 years of UN. A last recommendation on medical CBD[4] [4] did not receive approval, leaving the substance unscheduled, and outside of treaty controls.

These changes to international law will take effect after each government receives their official notification from the UN Secretary-General. In case a country contests the vote, it would only delay the entry into force of the decision to March 2021, which would only serve to reinforce the historic character of this set of decisions since the Single Convention was adopted in New-York 60 year earlier, to the day, on 30 March 1961.

[1]  This was WHO’s recommendation 5.1 (see detail below).
[2]  Recommendations 5.2, 5.3, and 5.6.
[3]  According to a memo from the UN Office of Legal Affairs from 26 November.
[4]  Recommendation 5.5.

Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli

Independent researcher (Spain/France)

“With this decision, the UN closes a 60-year denial of what has been documented being among the most ancient medicinal plant humankind domesticated”

Michael Krawitz

Executive Director, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (USA)

“As a medical patient myself I know how necessary this change in international law is, to help reduce the suffering of millions of people and how it adds a much needed pain treatment with promise in mitigating reliance on opiates at a key moment in history.”

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