In what could be a historic turning point for cannabis, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) conducted its first ever assessment of cannabis and cannabis-related substances during its 40th meeting June 4-7, 2018 in Switzerland. As a result, the organization will move to update global drug treaties based upon scientific evidence.
The WHO’s review, officially released on Thursday, June 7, 2018, could ultimately go on to influence international drug policy, as well as the classification of cannabis under the laws of individual nations, says Michael Krawitz, founder of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, who attended the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Believe it or not, this process has never been done for cannabis since the 1961. The WHO has the unique task under the treaty to assess drugs to see if evidence suggests a better placement in the schedules,” Krawitz told Marijuana.com. “Any objective observer can clearly see Cannabis should not be scheduled the same way as heroin.”
Krawitz was referring to the last and only international scheduling of cannabis in 1961, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the first to prohibit marijuana based on assumptions from earlier international treaties.
“Our ancestors, including Harry Anslinger, incorporated the Single Convention Treaty into our national law in the USA back in 1970, so even a small change in the treaty could mean a big change in the DEA’s tune,” Krawitz said. “The WHO has begun to repair a century-old injustice: the global prohibition of cannabis.”
In addition to scientific and medical professionals, human rights groups, patients, students, 106 civil society and non-governmental organizations from 35 countries across all continents attended the meeting and endorsed the contribution.
The international think tank, For Alternative Approaches to Addiction – Think (FAAAT), was the focal point between the WHO, civil society and Member State governments.
“While cannabis is still officially considered by international law as the worst of all poisons in 2018, the situation will hopefully change with the reviews undertaken by the WHO,” a FAAAT statement said.
“The world civil society community commends the WHO for this review of Cannabis, although we anticipate that inertia and poor organization will not make evidence-based assessment an easy affair,” Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, a Spanish researcher for FAAAT, wrote in an email.
Leading up to the WHO meeting, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2018 called for comments on whether current international laws prohibiting marijuana should be upheld. The comments were then forwarded the WHO.
“Although this time the outcome of the experts’ work will only be preliminary, the process might very well lead to a change of cannabis scheduling under the anti-drug treaties,” said Krawitz, one of the core authors of the Joint Civil Society Contribution to the WHO meeting and endorsed by nongovernmental groups. “An ideal outcome of the current review would be a committee recommendation to remove cannabis from the international treaty’s list of Schedule IV drugs, which could ultimately free up member states to push ahead with their own reform efforts.”