Marijuana Should Be Rescheduled, World Health Organization Says

By Bryan Le 02/04/19

The UN authority is joining those who are demanding we take another look at marijuana's classification.

Marijuana drugs way to the customer. Globe.
The world is wrong on marijuana, says the WHO. Ieva Zemite |

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that marijuana has been considered a Schedule IV drug, the Single Convention’s most restrictive category, for far too long. They believe marijuana’s current scheduling goes against science, but are making it clear they are stopping short of allowing legalization.

The international scheduling of drugs was outlined in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961, which categorized drugs as most harmful and restricted for medical use in Schedule I to the more relaxed Schedule III.

Their pattern is consistent with the United States’ scheduling order, up until Schedule IV. Breaking the pattern, the Single Convention defines Schedule IV drugs as an especially dangerous subset of Schedule I drugs requiring special attention and restrictions.

Currently, marijuana is dual-categorized as Schedule I federally and a Schedule IV drug internationally, which places it on the same level as synthetic opioids.

The WHO suggests that the marijuana plant and cannabis resins be taken off of Schedule IV, downgrading it to Schedule I internationally. They also want to explicitly state that CBD preparations with a THC content of lower than 0.2% will be considered as “not under international control” in any way.

They also suggest that cannabis extracts, tinctures, and pharmaceutical THC compounds be taken from Schedule I down to Schedule III.

Despite all the rescheduling, the WHO is not recommending that any country legalize marijuana, and in fact would consider such a move a violation of some stricter international treaties. However, the move is an admission that most governments have gotten marijuana wrong.

“The placement of cannabis in the 1961 treaty, in the absence of scientific evidence, was a terrible injustice," said legalization advocate Michael Krawitz. "Today the World Health Organization has gone a long way towards setting the record straight. It is time for us all to support the World Health Organization’s recommendations and ensure politics don't trump science."

Despite not explicitly advocating for legalization, this may tip the scales in favor of countries that no longer want to enforce marijuana prohibition. Canada and Uruguay, which have decided to legalize marijuana even before the WHO's announcement, are expected to support the move. More restrictive countries like China and Russia are expected to disapprove.

The United States' federal stance remains to be seen. Despite marijuana being legal in some form in more than half of the U.S., some say President Trump’s Attorney General nominee might go either way.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter