UN Drug Panel Reclassifies Cannabis to Reflect Medical Use, Relative Safety

Peachtree NORML reflects on the victory, challenges still ahead.

United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted yesterday to remove cannabis from the international schedule of the most dangerous drugs, where it had been for nearly 60 years.

The CND’s 53 Member States recognized that classifying cannabis on the strictest control schedule (along with deadly, addictive heroin) was an anti-science position, as increasing evidence pours in from around the world about cannabis’s safety and therapeutic medical uses.

“Attitudes about cannabis are changing all over the world,” said Ryan Ralston, Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, the Georgia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “From the United Nations to small-town Georgia, people are waking up to the incredible possibilities of cannabis as a front-line medical treatment.”

“The fight won’t be easy,” Ralston continued. “Many powerful people are invested in prohibition and the incarceration state it promotes. But we know change is coming. The reefer-madness lies can’t survive serious scrutiny. Evidence is changing minds and compassion is changing hearts.”

Benefits of the rescheduling of cannabis on a global scale include increased availability of funding for cannabis research, including its many medical uses; a strong signal on the international stage that cannabis should be reconsidered, through the lens of empirical evidence rather than misinformation and stigma; and a confirmation of the appetite of many countries to stop incarcerating cannabis patients whose use of a safe, effective medicine (often in place of patent pharmaceuticals) has been maligned for decades.

The United States, despite 33 individual states having legalized medical use of cannabis products, asked that the plant “continue to be controlled under international drug control conventions,” while recognizing “a safe and effective cannabis-derived therapeutic has been developed” in the form of an FDA-approved, cannabis-derived treatment for seizures.

The continuous, disingenuous double-speak about the “negative public health effects” of a plant proven safer than alcohol or anti-depressants, as well as fear mongering about “addiction” and the persistent “gateway drug” myth, mars the U.S. statement and demonstrates the pernicious disinformation that cannabis advocates still face.

Read more about the UN’s decision here, or review the cringe-worthy U.S. statement in this PDF.