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Does The WHO Vote On Cannabinoids Change Anything?

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Despite removing cannabis from Schedule IV of international drug scheduling, the change in policy does very little to move the issue of full reform forward.

Despite a great deal of fanfare in the mainstream press and even the canna specialty trades, the WHO vote on cannabis last week does not mean much. The body voted to only remove cannabinoids from Schedule IV. Schedule IV of the international drug scheduling regime is used to classify drugs with high addictiveness (like Valium or Xanax). 

However, from both a clinical and more tangible logistical perspective, the drug remains under Schedule I. This means, no matter that it shows up in other schedules too still, Cannabis Sativa L, the plant, and all its derivatives, are first and foremost still illegal and of no medical efficacy in the eyes of global regulators and controllers (like law enforcement). Further, the distinctions, from a prescribing end, between Schedule II and IV are almost nonexistent.

This decision, in other words, means that all issues related to access if not the industry beyond that (like banking) remain in a grey zone internationally.

It is incremental politics at its worst and on a global level.

But it is not the only semi meaningless gesture of reform these days. The world is full of them of the cannabis kind. 

In the United States, a lame-duck session of the House of Representatives may have passed the MORE Act, however, it is unlikely that its companion will get past the Senate, much less become law before the end of this Congressional term.

Bottom line? By the end of 2020, cannabis is no longer considered as dangerous a drug like Valium. But the plant is still an international “outlaw.”

What Next?

Given all the setbacks in almost every region, on the medical front, advocates are again calling for full and final recreational reform – even if that too is not quite baked (see New Zealand). It is very clear, however, that as a result, recreational experiments in countries like Mexico and Luxembourg next year will be avidly watched, followed, and reported on. 

The medical discussion is fully underway, but it is still hard in almost every country to gain access via the traditional route – namely covered under health insurance after being prescribed by a doctor. Indeed, many doctors are still reluctant to engage in the cannabis discussion with their patients at all – even after the removal of the drug from Schedule IV.

In Europe there are absolutely bright spots (see the decision last week of the European Commission on hemp), but the march for full and final reform is far from over.

Be sure to attend the International Cannabis Business Conference when it returns to Europe in 2021.

World Health Organization