The World Health Organisation (the United Nations public health agency in Geneva) has released information indicating that the international guidelines they have held for cannabis since 1961 are incorrect and that cannabis should be rescheduled as it is not dangerous and does have medical value.
It is clear that it was political (not scientific) motivations that put cannabis in this dangerous and illegal category, which has left thousands around the world branded criminals for using a safe and effective naturally-occurring plant.
But what does this mean for cannabis laws in the UK?
A failed war
At last the world is growing up and moving on from this undeniable abuse of basic human rights. The ‘Drug War’ is being shown up for what it is – a war on people motivated by greed and evil. It is well beyond time we stopped hunting people for using a benign plant.
Cannabis is currently under Schedule IV of the Single Convention for drugs that are considered to be very dangerous and without any therapeutic value. Other drugs in this category include LSD and heroin.
The WHO sets guidelines for all countries belonging to the United Nations and they will be asked to vote on these recommendations in March 2019 (if not delayed somehow) when the commission meets in Vienna. It is then that we will see the initial impact driven by these momentous changes. However former Deputy Secretary of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has already stated that:
“We do not expect that the CND would vote against these recommendations as they come from scientific experts and are based on rigorous scientific review.”
Yes, they got it wrong and cannabis is actually pretty safe. Most have known this for years and the science clearly points that way, but it is enormously helpful to finally have these facts confirmed by a respected international organisation such as the WHO. It is long overdue, but better late than never.
What this means for UK cannabis laws
This UN body is where countries look to when creating their drug laws, so an individual country like the UK, for example, will no longer have the luxury of being able to claim that cannabis has no medical value, or that it is highly addictive. This paves the way for establishing medical cannabis programs throughout the world and puts a big question mark on any continuing prohibition of cannabis. Anywhere.
While the UK government surely won’t be too enthusiastic to bring about law changes anytime soon, it’s going to be very hard to silence the calls for wider cannabis legalisation for long.
A big step in cannabis reform
The report, dated 24 January, recommend that cannabis and THC are completely removed from ‘Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs (1961) something which would then allow for the worldwide cannabis prohibition and the free use of medical cannabis. Cannabis as well as extracts are to be put under Schedule IV of the treaty where ‘a substance has a low potential for abuse’.
Ethan Russo, MD, a neurologist and Director of Research and Development of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute made the following statement regarding the rescheduling:
“It is gratifying that the World Health Organization has recognized the scientific fact that cannabis and its derivatives have demonstrable therapeutic properties and can be the base for safe and effective medicines. It is now incumbent upon governments of the USA and other nations to eliminate the barriers to research on cannabis and allow its free commerce across state lines and international frontiers”
We quite agree! If ever there was a green light for progressive cannabis policies, this is it.
Russo also stated that:
“Governments have an obligation to translate provision of the treaties in their national legislation so this definitely will have an impact and all countries will have to modify the position on THC in their legislation”