After a recommendation from experts at the World Health Organisation, the UN vote to erase cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which is set to trigger huge growth in research and development into medical cannabis worldwide. This was a historic vote that finally recognised the medicinal properties of cannabis – a plant that has been used therapeutically for thousands of years throughout the history of mankind.
The vote took place in Vienna and was won by 27 to 25, with both the UK and US voting in favour for the change and Russia, China, and Nigeria some of the countries against the move. The previous Schedule IV classification categorised Cannabis alongside Heroin, a listing of drugs designated as potentially addictive and dangerous, and having little to no therapeutic or remedial use. This classification was a mainstay in the international drug control system and meant that for decades cannabis has not been recognised in the medical community due to prohibition and lack of scientific evidence on its medical benefits.
Cannabis related products
Cannabis related products have been heavily stigmatised for over a century. Despite the advice from medical practitioners at the time, Cannabis was outlawed by most countries in the early 1900’s. This decision was heavily driven by social, racial, and political reasons and the governments that pushed it through ignored all the medical and therapeutic benefits of cannabis that people had known about for thousands of years. This has led to following generations being exposed to propaganda, criminalisation and stigma surrounding cannabis. Whilst this move from the UN won’t completely free up cannabis from international treaty control, it is a huge step towards the legalisation of cannabis in medicine and the normalisation of cannabis with the public.
Medical Cannabis Implications of the Vote
The UN’s historic U-turn on the classification of medical cannabis is going to have huge impacts on regulations worldwide. As many countries follow the drug classifications set out by the UN, it could act as a catalyst for more countries to legalise the drug for medicinal use. There are currently more than 50 countries worldwide that have already adopted medicinal cannabis programs. This includes the UK which legalised the medical use of cannabis in 2018.
The reclassification will increase access to cannabis-based medicines worldwide and could also spark more R&D and scientific research into the drugs long known medical properties. These discussions have since helped pave the way for research and developments into medical cannabis products to help people suffering from Neurological and Neurocognitive disorders such as Epilepsy, Dementia, ADHD and more.
What does this all mean for CBD in the UK?
Among the recommendations set out by the World Health Organisation, it was suggested that cannabidiol or CBD should not be subject to international controls. This is because CBD does not contain any THC – the intoxicating compound found in cannabis that gets you ‘high’. The case is simple, as CBD has no addictive or intoxicating properties and so it should not be classified as a drug at all.
CBD is already legal in many countries worldwide, including the UK from 2017. The UK has a regulatory framework that is much more advanced than the rest of the world. All UK CBD products must be approved by the Food standard Agency (FSA) – an independent government body. This ensures the quality and safety profiles of all products in the UK meet their high standards.
CBD is being investigated in different medicines for several conditions. For example, Epidiolex is an oral cannabidiol solution developed by GW Pharmaceuticals and approved in the United States to treat seizures in patients age 1 and older with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. The treatment also is approved in the EU, UK and Scotland under the brand name Epidyolex to treat seizures in patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut, ages 2 or older, in conjunction with clobazam, an anti-epileptic medication.
The future is bright
After years of misconceptions, the UN notion that cannabis can be classified as a schedule IV drug with no therapeutic benefits has been completely overruled, paving the way for research and development into medicinal cannabis products. The UN has also recommended that CBD, the non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, should not be subject to any further international controls. It is an extremely exciting time to be involved in this industry as consumers and patients can tap into the enormous potential of the cannabis plant.
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