The Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) of the World Health Organization (WHO) met in November to discuss whether the scheduling of marijuana should be revised from its current status as a Schedule 1 substance to another less restrictive category. In a surprise move, the expected release of their findings has been postponed to January instead of this month as had earlier been indicated.
The ECDD called for, and received input from various stakeholders regarding various aspects of cannabis, such as its medicinal value as well as evidence of abuse or overdose incidents. The response to this call was massive, as was the situation when the FDA asked for input on the same matter in October.
The WHO committee subsequently released a pre-review report which had some positive findings about cannabis, such as the observation that no evidence had been presented that any fatality had ever occurred due to a cannabis overdose. The pre-review also indicated that there was evidence to show that some ingredients in cannabis can improve sleep and reduce pain.
The findings in the pre-review prompted the agency to take their examination a notch higher with a critical review done on the findings gathered. The findings of that in-depth critical review would then be used by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to decide whether to revise the scheduling of cannabis or leave it in the category where it is currently listed.
It is the release of the recommendations made after the in-depth critical review that have been delayed until January next year.
The Expert Committee said more time was needed “for clearance reasons” before the recommendations are made public. This announcement poured cold water on the marijuana advocates’ spirits since they had expected a favorable recommendation on the basis of the findings stated in the pre-review.
Speculation is rife that the delay was motivated by political factors since a recommendation to reschedule cannabis would have imposed a lot of pressure on various authorities to adjust their stance on cannabis. Remember, the UN sets the agenda for many international policies and member states are expected to follow the suggestions made by the world body.
Whatever the true reason for the delay, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will meet in March 2019 and vote on the scheduling of cannabis. So, a decision will still be made one way or the other, and it may be hard for the Commission to keep cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance yet pure CBD (cannabidiol) was removed from international scheduling so that access by patients isn’t restricted. CBD can be extracted from cannabis.
Industry players like Medical Cannabis Payment Solutions (OTC: REFG) and Net Element (NASDAQ: NETE) eagerly await the decision made by the UN since such a decision will have a global impact on how the cannabis industry evolves.
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