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Legal Marijuana

World Health Organization Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis and Provides Clarity on CBD

The WHO is on the verge of removing marijuana from the world's list of dangerous narcotics while recognizing its vast therapeutic potential.
World Health Organization Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis and Provides Clarity on CBD
Image credit: razerbird | Getty Images
6 min read
Brought to you by Marijuana Business Daily

Member states of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) received the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence’s (ECDD) cannabis recommendations, which had been expected in DecemberMarijuana Business Daily has learned.

The CND had been expected to consider rescheduling cannabis in March 2019 at its annual meeting, but the delay in receiving the ECDD recommendations may push that consideration into 2020 to provide additional time for member states to review them.

The report recommends several changes to how cannabis is scheduled, which could have significant implications for the cannabis industry:

  • The scheduling of cannabis in the international drug control conventions wouldn’t be as restrictive as it is now, because it would be removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention, the category reserved for the most dangerous substances.
  • THC in all forms would be removed from the 1971 Convention and placed with cannabis in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention, significantly simplifying cannabis classification.
  • Pure CBD and CBD preparations containing no more than 0.2 percent THC would not be included in any way in the international drug control conventions.
  • Pharmaceutical preparations containing 9-THC, if they follow certain criteria, would be added to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention, recognizing the unlikelihood of abuse.

MJBizDaily obtained and reviewed a copy of the recommendations -- which have not yet been made public -- on how to schedule different categories of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. Those changes include:

Cannabis and cannabis resin

The report recommends cannabis and cannabis resin “be deleted from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs (1961).” Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention, the most restrictive category, includes dangerous substances with extremely limited or no medical value.

If this recommendation is followed, cannabis and cannabis resin instead would remain in Schedule I.

In justifying the change, the ECDD noted:

“The evidence presented to the Committee did not indicate that cannabis plant and cannabis resin were particularly liable to produce ill-effects similar to the effects of the other substances in Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In addition, 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.”

• Dronabinol (delta-9) and tetrahydrocannabinol (isomers of delta-9-THC)

The report recommends that dronabinol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC and its isomers) be “deleted from the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971) and added to Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs (1961).” These recommendations would simplify the scheduling, grouping all forms of THC in the same category as cannabis and cannabis resin.

The dangers associated with THC are similar to those of cannabis and cannabis resin, so it would be consistent to have them all together in the same category, the report noted.

The report compares the reclassification to cocaine being in the same category as the coca leaf and morphine in the same category as opium. In the case of isomers of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the move would also simplify and bring consistency.

“Due to the chemical similarity of each of the six isomers to delta-9-THC, it is very difficult to differentiate any of these six isomers from delta-9-THC using standard methods of chemical analysis,” the report said.

Extracts and tinctures of cannabis

The report recommends that extracts and tinctures of cannabis be “deleted from Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs (1961).”

The committee recommended to delete this category from the 1961 Convention because extracts and tinctures encompass “diverse preparations with a variable concentration of delta-9 THC,” some being nonpsychoactive and with “promising therapeutic applications.”

Cannabidiol preparations

The ECDD previously finalized the critical review of pure CBD, recommending it not to be scheduled within the drug control conventions. Doubts remained about CBD preparations containing some THC, which the report clarified its position on:

“The Committee recommended that a footnote be added to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to read: ‘Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol and not more than 0.2% of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol are not under international control.'”

The committee also noted:

“Cannabidiol is found in cannabis and cannabis resin but does not have psychoactive properties and has no potential for abuse and no potential to produce dependence. It does not have significant ill-effects. Cannabidiol has been shown to be effective in the management of certain treatment-resistant, childhood-onset epilepsy disorders. It was approved for this use in the United States in 2018 and is currently under consideration for approval by the EU.”

Pharmaceutical preparations of cannabis and dronabinol.

The Committee notes that there are currently two main types of medications containing delta-9-THC:

  • Preparations that contains both delta-9-THC and CBD, such as Sativex.
  • Preparations that contain only delta-9-THC as the active compound, such as Marinol or Syndros.

Because “the evidence concerning the use of these delta-9-THC containing medicines is that they are not associated with problems of abuse and dependence and they are not diverted for the purpose of non-medical use,” and “in order not to impede access to these medicines,” the committee recommended not to include these medicines in the restrictive categories Schedule I of the 1961 or Schedule II of the 1971 Convention.

Instead, the less restrictive Schedule III of the 1961 Convention was recommended:

“The Committee recommended that preparations containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol), produced either by chemical synthesis or as a preparation of cannabis, that are compounded as pharmaceutical preparations with one or more other ingredients and in such a way that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol) cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health, be added to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs.”

This article originally appeared in Marijuana Business Daily and is posted here under a content partnership with Green Entrepreneur.

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