At the end of last month, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) announced that it was still on track to upend an array of prohibitive cannabis laws this December. As an intra-national body, CND helps countries around the world legislate on sensitive policy issues, like cannabis laws. The organisation was central in mandating the infamous Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961.
Unfortunately, not everyone is on board. With the United States traditionally lagging when it comes to drug policy, the Trump administration has also distanced itself from many of these recommendations. The consequences could see cannabis flourish everywhere but on American soil.
Unearthing the CND’s cannabis regulations
Coronavirus woes have struck every industry, not just cannabis. And, insofar as cannabis can be a very sensitive political issue, the lockdown measures have also slowed critical legal processes. Many countries have reverted, for better or worse, to digitised meetings and assemblies.
For cannabis cultivators hoping to earn the legal green light to operate, digitisation isn’t an option.
Certifications like the EU-GMP are only given upon thorough inspections and on-site audits. However, the air travel needed to facilitate these inspections has been put on hold. The coronavirus pandemic has effectively put the entire industry on pause.
But, come December this year, the wait may be well worth it.
The group of 53 nations that make up the CND will vote based on several important recommendations made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2019. At that time, the WHO said that it may be time to revisit some of the drug classifications in place. Specifically, the organisation explained that the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs may need an update.
Signed in Manhattan, New York, in 1961, the convention categorised cannabis under the strictest banner. Included in this category are drugs like cocaine, heroin and fentanyl. All of these drugs also top the list as the world’s most addictive and dangerous. The past few years of slow-rolling cannabis reform have proven that these same risks don’t necessarily apply to marijuana.
The most notable changes to the convention would supercharge two specific cannabis industries: cannabidiol (CBD) and medical marijuana research.
The WHO advised that low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) CBD products be removed entirely from this list. This request has nothing to do with the Novel Foods regulation, however. Companies hoping to enter this subsection must still file for a licence to sell CBD products or risk being shut down (at least in the UK).
The second recommendation would lower the barrier to continue researching the positive effects of medical cannabis. According to official documents:
‘Preparations of cannabis have shown therapeutic potential for treatment of pain and other medical conditions such as epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. In line with the above, cannabis and cannabis resin should be scheduled at a level of control that will prevent harm caused by cannabis use and at the same time will not act as a barrier to access and to research and development of cannabis-related preparation for medical use.’
Voting to promote these and other changes would usher in the next cycle of innovation, investment and productivity for cannabis.
Unfortunately, there are just a few problems, the least of which is a second-wave of coronavirus.
Converting cannabis critics in the United States
In a document retrieved by the cannabis publication, Marijuana Moment, it was identified that the United States government is eager to find creative ways of overcoming research barriers without changing cannabis’ classification.
The administration, it is unclear which part, is worried that adopting the WHO’s recommendations would drive expectations that cannabis legalisation in the U.S. is just around the corner. The text also indicates that reclassification may not be necessary if the sole objective is to lower research barriers. It reads:
‘It is unclear what specific barriers Schedule IV entails that inhibits research into the scientific or medical benefits of cannabis. Germany, Israel, Australia, the United Kingdom, and several other countries, for example, have robust industries growing cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, despite cannabis’ Schedule IV listing.’
The United States isn’t alone in these concerns either, and this is why the CND is determined to walk through, in more detail, these issues. Though the pandemic is still in full effect, with many countries’ borders still closed, the agency has supported digitised versions of these meetings over the summer.
This would indicate that the CND is working hard to stay on track for the December reunion.
The purpose of these summer meetings is to help member states convene and work through their respective concerns. The WHO, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) will also be present to help facilitate the conversation.
Members have also been recommended to bring as many experts to the table as possible. An official document retrieved by Marijuana Business Daily reads:
‘[The meetings will focus] on the exchange of views among member states regarding, implications arising from economic, social, legal, administrative and other factors and the ways of addressing them if any of these recommendations are adopted.’
There are other macro events that would affect America’s position in these conversations too.
Last month, shortly after the United States broke the record for the highest number of coronavirus cases, Trump announced that the country would ‘terminate its relationship with the WHO.’
The funds that had been used to help support the WHO would be redirected ‘to other worldwide and deserving, urgent global public health needs’, said the President.
And, based on previous policies, these funds will likely return to fight the ‘War on Drugs’ at home.
In a 2017 memo, the Trump administration indicated that it would investigate states who have legalised recreational marijuana, despite Obama allowing states to operate autonomously on the subject. The memo also indicated that there was a direct connection between cannabis use and opiate abuse. The President also considered intervening in the medical marijuana sector, too. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is on record as supporting this consideration, calling medical marijuana desperate.
Perhaps the most critical feature included in the memo was the threat to cut funding to America’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
These events would indicate that the United States still isn’t ready to make too many concessions, especially at an international level, for cannabis. This is also assuming that President Trump earns a second term come November. And, as Bident takes the lead in the latest polls, the world is watching closely.
With the U.S. election in November and the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs planning to improve cannabis laws and regulations in December, the end of 2020 is going to be very important for cannabis.