Vienna, 2 December 2020 – At the reconvened 63rd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which took place today, the 12 EU Member States who are also members of the Commission acted upon the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations to adjust the classification of cannabis and cannabis-related substances under the international drug conventions, while ensuring that they remain subject to the most relevant international control.
The positions expressed today by the EU Member States fully reflect the objective, evidence-based approach of the EU regarding illicit drugs. They also take into account recent scientific and medical developments in the field, as well as possible public health, security, legal and administrative implications. They highlight the importance of the World Health Organization and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, each in their respective capacity, to provide a strong, adapted international regulation in this field.
The recommendations of the World Health Organization do not aim at and should not be seen as a step towards a liberalisation of the use of cannabis. Nor do they undermine our common resolve to disrupt illicit trafficking or minimize the harms and potential for abuse related to cannabis. The EU recalls in this regard that cannabis and cannabis resin will remain subject to the international control measures provided by the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.
The CND is the policy-making body of the United Nations with prime responsibility for drug-related matters. It regularly amends the list of controlled substances that are annexed to the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and to the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971. These amendments are made on the basis of recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) which is advised by its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD).
On 24 January 2019, the WHO submitted to the Secretary-General of the UN six recommendations concerning cannabis and cannabis-related substances. These recommendations aim to ensure that the substances concerned are subject to the most relevant international control, reflecting current scientific and medical knowledge, administrative practices, and to ensure access to, research on and development of preparations of cannabis-related substances for medical purposes.
This was the first time that the WHO conducted a formal review and scientific analysis of cannabis and cannabis resin, dronabinol, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), extracts and tinctures of cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), and pharmaceutical preparations containing cannabis.
Regarding in particular cannabis and cannabis resin, and after a thorough review of the available scientific literature, the WHO concluded that these substances have to remain listed in Schedule I of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs given their high abuse potential and the ill effects associated with their use posing a significant public health risk. However, the EU supported the deletion of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as recommended by the WHO, considering that it would allow more research, in line with our evidence-based drugs policy, on the medical use of cannabis and cannabis resin.
The Union position expressed today by the EU Member States is based notably on available information provided by the WHO, the International Narcotics Control Board and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, within their respective mandates. It was adopted by the Council of the European Union, taking into account exchanges between the EU Member States in the Council Horizontal Working Party on Drugs.
The EU stands together to support scientific progress in relation to cannabinoids, also with regard to possible medical use, while opposing the trivialisation of their non-medical use that represents a health risk. It is nevertheless important to note that the EU position does not imply that the EU and its Member States would be obliged to promote cannabis in medicinal or scientific use nor does it mean that the EU would have a common policy on cannabis in medicinal or scientific use.
All EU Member States are parties to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and are committed to respect the legal framework they provide for.
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