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Historic UN vote is 'a green light' for the use of medical cannabis

The United Nations recognised the medicinal use of cannabis for the first time while also removin...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

16.56 4 Dec 2020


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Historic UN vote is 'a green light' for the use of medical cannabis


Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

16.56 4 Dec 2020


Share this article


The United Nations recognised the medicinal use of cannabis for the first time while also removing it from their list of dangerous drugs in a historic vote this week.

The vote by 53 member states of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was held on Wednesday, with 27 in favour, 25 against, and one abstention.

It means that the CND "opened the door to recognising the medicinal and therapeutic potential of the commonly-used but still largely illegal recreational drug".

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Canada, Uruguay and 15 US states have legalised cannabis for recreational use, with more than 50 countries around the world adopting medicinal cannabis programmes.

There has been a huge conversation surrounding the legalisation and access to medical cannabis in Ireland over the last few years.

In 2019, legislation was passed to allow for the operation of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme on a pilot basis for five years.

Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, said the recognition of cannabis as a medicine is "significant".

She told the Moncrieff show how the UN vote follows on from the first time the WHO has looked at the of cannabis as well as its usefulness for medicinal purposes.

They recommended that cannabis be rescheduled and removed from the list of Schedule 4 drugs under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1964 which designates substances that have no therapeutic usefulness.

Ms Fordham said: "This vote is definitely a green light for medical cannabis and will accelerate the moves towards the growing medical cannabis market globally.

"There are now more than 50 countries which allow cannabis for medical use and I think we're going to see a lot more following this vote.

"But, cannabis still remains in Schedule 1 (under the 1964 Convention) and sits next to heroin and cocaine and has to be controlled as strictly as those drugs.

"Governments at the UN still want to send this signal that this doesn't mean they're allowing cannabis for recreational use.

"So it remains in Schedule 1 but they agree it has medical usefulness, that's what the vote means.

Historic UN vote is 'a green light' for the use of medical cannabis

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Despite this, Ms Fordham said the vote was still quite important for advocates of drug policy reform as a number of countries which are usually hardline on several issues votes in favour of the rescheduling of cannabis.

She added: "This is quite positive in terms of the drug policy reform agenda, we see it in that way.

"What's quite shocking really is that a number of countries that do allow medicinal cannabis at home still voted against this decision in the UN.

"Chile and Peru are two countries that come to mind, they just allowed the use of medical cannabis in their own countries but yet they voted against the scheduling at the UN, so it doesn't make sense."

Ms Fordham believes there should be more questions asked following the vote about medical cannabis and whether the harms of using cannabis are overstated.

She said her organisation remains "very disappointed" that cannabis remains in Schedule 1 because the decision to place it in that category of drugs initially was based on "almost no scientific evidence".

She added: "In terms of cannabis, I think the argument for legal regulation remains very strong.

"Of course, there is a tension in the international drug control system that doesn't allow that currently."

Main image: File photo. Credit: Guillaume Bonnefont/IP3 via ZUMA Press

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