Commission on Narcotic Drugs transfers cannabis to schedule 1

According to some, Wednesday, December 2 will go down in the history books as a historic day. At least, for those involved in medicinal cannabis. Why? Because the United Nations, more specifically the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), has decided to transfer cannabis from ‘Schedule 4’ to ‘Schedule 1’ of the Single Convention. Bedrocan’s Director of Government Affairs Ole Heil responds to question what this change means for Bedrocan. Is this indeed a historical moment?

Commission on Narcotic Drugs transfers cannabis to schedule 1 transfers cannabis to schedule 1
Ole Heil

What is Schedule 4 of the Single Convention about?

‘In 1961 the countries affiliated to the UN signed a treaty in which they make agreements on to deal with drugs. This is popularly called the Single Treaty. However, not all agreements apply to all drugs. There are four categories of drugs, and each category has its own rules. The substances on Schedule 4 have the strictest regime. They are considered to be dangerous and with no positive aspects. Countries are, therefore, prohibited from doing anything with these substances. In fact, it is an unfortunate numbering. Schedule 4 is the toughest category, but Schedule 1 is the second toughest category. The lightest criteria apply to Schedules 2 and 3.’

Has the Commission on Narcotic Drugs now removed cannabis from this strict list 4?

‘That’s right. The World Health Organization already recommended in 2018 to remove cannabis from that toughest list (Schedule 4). This is because the WHO says that there are indeed positive sides to cannabis. The CND voted on this recommendation, and the majority was in favour.’

Can cannabis now be traded freely?

‘No, definitely not. Cannabis is still on Schedule 1 of the convention, the second toughest category. So very strict rules still apply, and cannabis products cannot be traded freely. However, cannabis is no longer seen as “completely bad and absolutely prohibited.” The substances on Schedule 1 are still prohibited substances, but they are recognized as having medicinal value. Research and product development is therefore allowed if a country so wishes.’

So what changes for Bedrocan?

‘Not to spoil the fun, but nothing really changes. It is primarily a symbolic statement. All kinds of legislative changes are needed to have a real impact. Starting with the treaty itself, as it still states that countries must set up an agency which buys the entire harvest if they want to do something with cannabis. If we really want something to change, that article will also have to change.

The symbolism will definitely have much positive influence in the longer term. The Netherlands, for example, is now conducting research into the system surrounding medicinal cannabis and how we want to proceed with it. The outcome of that process will probably look different now with this decision than it would without this decision. For countries that do not yet make medicinal cannabis available to patients, this may be a boost to do something with it.

In short, this decision has no effect on day-to-day business. In the very long term, it can indeed have a positive impact on laws and regulations in the Netherlands and other countries. But as long as they have not yet been changed, nothing will happen in practice.’

If you want to know more, read the MJBizDaily article about this topic. Or read the articles Bedrocan has published about this matter: Will the UN point of view on cannabis be modified or not? and ‘WHO recommendations are likely to change international law’.

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