World Health Organization To UN: Reclassify Cannabis

By Kelly Burch 02/22/19

WHO is calling for the classification to be updated to reflect the medical uses of marijuana.

woman examining cannabis plant

The World Health Organization is calling on the United Nations to change the classification of cannabis to acknowledge that the drug does have some medicinal purposes. 

According to Futurism, cannabis is currently considered a Schedule IV drug by the UN. This designation is the most tightly controlled, and reserved for drugs that show “particularly dangerous properties.” It was set by an international drug treaty passed in 1961. 

However, according to information published in the journal BMJ, the World Health Organization is calling for the classification to be updated to reflect the medical uses of marijuana. 

“The World Health Organization has proposed rescheduling cannabis within international law to take account of the growing evidence for medical applications of the drug, reversing its position held for the past 60 years that cannabis should not be used in legitimate medical practice,” the report's authors wrote

According to the report, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence started reconsidering marijuana’s classification last year. The committee released a report with its findings and recommendations. 

“The Committee concluded that the inclusion of cannabis and cannabis resin in Schedule IV is not consistent with the criteria for a drug to be placed in Schedule IV,” the report reads. 

It goes on to recommend that marijuana and its compounds be reclassified as Schedule I or II drugs, which are less tightly controlled. The recommendations could be voted on by the United Nations member countries as soon as March, which would change the way that marijuana is handled under international law.

However, it would have no bearing on how cannabis is scheduled federally in the United States, which uses an entirely different system of classification.

Still, marijuana advocates, including U.S. Air Force veteran Michael Krawitz, says that the reclassification is long overdue. 

“The placement of cannabis in the 1961 treaty, in the absence of scientific evidence, was a terrible injustice," he told Forbes. "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.”

Kenzi Riboulet Zemouli, the head of research at Paris-based non-profit For Alternative Approaches to Addiction Think & Do Tank, told Leafly that the measure is “a beginning of a new evidence and health-oriented cycle for international Cannabis policy.”

“This is the best outcome that WHO could possibly have come up with,” Riboulet Zemouli said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.