In Vienna this week, the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) opted to indefinitely postpone a vote on the World Health Organization’s recommended changes to the scheduling of cannabis in international drug control conventions.
The recommendations, prepared by the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, call for cannabis and cannabis resin to be deleted from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, the most stringent of categories, which lists substances with extremely limited or no medical value.
In a tweet regarding the decision, the CND announced that it was unanimous and will give Member States “more time to consider the recommendations.”
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However, during the plenary session, Diego Olivera, who represents Uruguay (the first nation in the world to legalize) and serves as a board member of the country’s Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, noted that, “At the request of some honorable delegates who manifested that their countries were not in a position to offer an answer, [Uruguay] was forced to agree to postpone.” He also requested that the vote be officially scheduled to take place at the CND’s next Reconvened Meeting in December 2019.
“We must keep in mind that [Schedule] IV is the strictest category described in the document, which can restrict the work of scientists who wish to investigate the possible therapeutic effects of the plant,” he added.
Alicia Buenrostro, Mexico’s Ambassador to Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia, echoed Olivera’s points, reminding delegates that “Thousands of people literally depend on the decisions being taken in this room.” She also pointed out that there was a delay in getting the WHO’s recommendations to the CND and expressed disappointment that, as a result, the CND decided to delay taking action. The Ambassador also took to Twitter: “The WHO has a key role,” she wrote, “and deserves the support of all Member States to carry out its scientific work with autonomy.”
Russia, in contrast, supported the decision to delay the vote, describing the WHO’s recommendations as “flimsy” and affirming that listing cannabis as a Schedule IV drug does not pose an obstacle for medical research. The United States also favored the delay, saying that the recommendations “were transmitted historically late, challenging our capacity to firm up responses from our national authorities.”