Well, it might be a small step forward in the fight for cannabis legalization, but the recent UN vote on WHO recommendations only saw one positive measure taken. While being removed from schedule IV, cannabis remains schedule I according to the UN.
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If you read most of the headlines, you’d think there was a massive step forward taken today in the fight to legalize cannabis, or at least have it taken seriously for its medical properties. But if you read a little closer, the end result is really not as great as it originally sounds to be. Yes, cannabis might no longer be schedule IV of the Single Convention, but it’s still sitting pretty at the top of both scheduling treaties.
UN drug scheduling
In 1961, negotiations were made between different countries of the world to come up with a treaty called the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances. Ten years later, yet another scheduling set was presented, this was called the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. These two treaties set basic guidelines for the international legality of certain drugs, but leave individual countries to come up with their own policies, though they must keep in line with the treaties (or, at least, they’re supposed to). As of 2018, 186 governments had signed the Single Convention on Narcotics treaty, though this does not give all of them the ability to vote.
The following are the two treaties, and their scheduling groups, prior to the vote:
Single Convention on Narcotic Substances:
- I – Addictive drugs with a high risk for abuse (group contains cannabis and heroine).
- II – Medical substances with a low risk for abuse.
- III – Preparations that are made from substances in schedule II, and those that use cocaine.
- IV – The most dangerous drugs listed in schedule I, these are considered very harmful and with no substantial medical or therapeutic value. (This group contains cannabis).
Single Convention on Psychotropic Substances:
- I – Substances which pose a major threat to public health, with a high risk of abuse, and which are considered to have no substantial therapeutic value. This group includes THC (but not the whole cannabis plant).
- II – Substances which pose a major threat to public health, with a risk of abuse, and which are considered to have only a low to moderate therapeutic value.
- III – Substances which pose a major threat to public health, with a risk of abuse, and which are considered to have a moderate to high therapeutic value.
- IV – Substances which pose a minor threat to public health, with a risk of abuse, and which are considered to have a high therapeutic value.