INCB Report: Certain medical cannabis programs violate international drug control treaties

UN INCB medical cannabis, INCB Report: Certain medical cannabis programs violate international drug control treaties

Only a month after the World Health Organization recommended a less-stringent scheduling of cannabis, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) declared that recreational marijuana programs and several medical programs are “contrary to the international drug control treaties.”

The INCB’s 2018 annual report could be a step back for those expecting meaningful reform at an international level this year.

The Vienna-based agency serves as “the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions.”

One of the INCB’s functions is to make recommendations about how to comply with the treaties and evaluate the implementation of those proposals.

The INCB’s president, Dr. Viroj Sumyai, noted in the foreword to the report that the conventions allow only for the medical and scientific use of cannabis, noting:

“The legalization of the use of cannabis for nonmedical purposes in some countries represents a challenge to the universal implementation of the treaties, a challenge to public health and well-being, particularly among young people, and a challenge to the parties to the treaties.”

Failures of medical cannabis programs

Sumyai also criticized “poorly regulated medical cannabis programs” – including Canada’s medical framework – that “may have contributed to the legalization of nonmedical cannabis use.”

According to the report, home growing, even for medical purposes, is of particular concern to the INCB, as the practice could heighten diversion of the products and present additional health risks.

The international body also noted that smoking is not a medically acceptable way to obtain standardized doses of cannabinoids” and rejected attempts to classify medical cannabis as “herbal medicines.”

Much like a recent resolution issued by the European Parliament, the INCB called for a uniform definition of acceptable medical uses of “pharmaceutical-quality cannabinoids.”

Other warnings about medical marijuana programs in the report include:

  • Products that don’t clearly describe the cannabinoids they contain.
  • Lack of identification of the best administration method for the product.
  • Failure to include possible adverse effects for use.

“When used in these ways, patients may confuse the acute euphoric effects of cannabinoids for longer-term medicinal effectiveness,” the INCB warned.

Focusing on the flaws of medical programs in the United States and Canada, the report criticized the laxity around where patients can purchase MMJ, such as “commercial outlets … under minimal medical supervision.”

“Most medical cannabis programmes in the United States do not comply with the requirements of the international drug control treaties or United States national law. The cannabis sold in dispensaries may be illicitly produced and sold. There may be substantial diversion of cannabis products intended for medical use to nonmedical use. There is often little or no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of many of the purported medical uses of cannabis and there is very little medical supervision of these ‘medical’ uses of cannabis.”

The report also highlighted that the Canadian medical cannabis program “does not comply with the international drug control treaties in important aspects” after successive court decisions led to rules changes for the national industry.

The INCB believes cannabis programs implemented in Canada and possibly in some in the United States went too far, because they:

  • Fail to control cannabis production and supply.
  • Fail to ensure “good-quality medicines are provided under medical supervision.”
  • Enable cannabis and its derivatives to be diverted to nonmedical use.

Recreational use remains a violation

In its annual report, the INCB maintained its strict position that “the legalization of nonmedical use of cannabis contravenes the international drug control treaties.”

The international body even said such moves undermine the international treaties and “may also encourage other states … to follow their example and use it as justification for doing so.”

The INCB has repeatedly accused Uruguay and the United States since 2013 of having violated international law after the South American country and Colorado and Washington state, respectively, legalized recreational marijuana use.

In the INCB’s 2017 report, the agency warned Canada about then Bill C-45, which provided for the legalization of adult-use cannabis across the nation.

Alfredo Pascual can be reached at [email protected]

14 comments on “INCB Report: Certain medical cannabis programs violate international drug control treaties
  1. Christopher Simmons on

    UN and WHO had enough time to conspire with Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, and Big Tobacco to come out with these “bogus critiques “! That’s why they kept “delaying “ their recommendations. Nothing but political posturing.

    • freddyo on

      You forgot Big Oil. Remember everything that comes from Oil, use to come from Hemp. Example: nylon rope or hemp rope. Which would you rather have holding your boat to a dock?
      They have lobbied since the 30″s with all their fake news. So you see this is not something new. Big money still rules and always has. On another note if I want to smoke it I will. I am sick of being told what to do with my life

  2. Christopher Simmons on

    Political posturing for UN/WHO, after consulting with Big Pharma, Alcohol, and Tobacco. They took months to spout this negative critique after the EDCC said cannabis was SAFE. Bureaucrats attempting to keep their jobs to stay relevant in a changing Cannabis landscape.


    They have this backwards, their bogus rules and regulations are a violation of human rights on a global scale. Disband this hold over from Slavery as the racist insult to humanity it has always been and then bring the officials who support the persecutions to continue before a War Crimes Tribunal.

  4. wolfy on

    The UN can take a hike. Always putting their noses in where they don’t belong or wanted. Trying to create the one world order. Screw off UN.

  5. Charles Atkins on

    All leading member countries, and especially those of the UN Security Council need to start to sort out and update all international treaties and laws pertaining to cannabis. The INCB and WHO are now on opposite sides, for example.
    It is the year 2019 and all of these outdated laws and treaties need to be improved and updated.

  6. Jeff on

    It is past time to remove Cannabis/Marijuana from these treaties and the 1st step is for the U.S. to remove this plant from schedule 1 status.

  7. James Stokes on

    The INCB seems to be trying to carve themselves out a job. When the whole world is trending in the other direction. Good Luck with that. Maybe you should also review your version of schedule I. California has had it with governmental agencies promoting laws that prohibit any plant based remedy. Look to alternative medicines and not government agencies.

  8. Michael on

    any international treaty or law that violates constitutional laws are unenforceable and illegal, and any government that signs International laws or treaties that violates constitutional laws are treasonous by nature and should be charged,

  9. John V.. on

    This is totally primitive thinking and way out of the realm of facts..

    They need to update their policies and leave the USA and Canada and other countries that have medical and recreational cannabis..

    They need to change the rules and allow de-scheduling of cannabis on a Global Scale..

    This is all just nonsense and is also a violation of Our civil rights and it will not be tolerated..

    The WHO is scheduled to have a hearing in March 2019 to possibly de-schedule Cannabis.. This NEEDS to Happen!

    The War on Drugs is a Failed effort and is only going to make the Drug cartels RICHER if they stop legalized cannabis..

    The USA has the right to make its own rules in this matter and not be hindered by this out dated outrageous rule beating…

    The INCB needs to butt out of this..

  10. pedclarke on

    The US fights illegal wars in perpetuity. The UN stands by silent. The now pipe up to dictate morality on the least toxic theraputic plant/ drug known.
    How about prioritizing their expression of moral outrage in proportion to the number of deaths per year caused by respective drugs. (Then maybe look at illegal acts of war by US, Isreal, UK, Saudi et al.)

  11. Greg on

    Then….it looks like we need to either renegotiate those treaties or back out altogether. Afterall, Trump set a precedent when he dropped out of the Paris Climate Accord. UN is not only worthless, but totally out of synch with reality. Cannabis is not going away. it’s creating jobs, business opportunities, a conduit for safe and effective pain management, a popular recreational substance and multi millions of income for states.

  12. Denise on

    Yeah, they have done such a fabulous job with opioids and poppies! What a joke. Same idiots who see peyote as a threat.
    This thinking by Committee (paid boards etc) is Ridiculous. The world is finally moving past the big pharma paid mouthpieces- and cannabis needs their opinion like a fish needs a bicycle.
    Interesting how big pharma is elbowing their way into cannabis now. Anything to make a buck and deceive the people.

  13. Jeroen on

    We might not like the comments, but a signed agreement needs to be respected (same as we like our cultivation licenses, employment contracts etc. to be respected). It merely shows it is time to update these agreements. Best thing we can do is remind the people we vote for to pay attention to this. At the same time keep the pressure on from any side possible to keep that reform train on the track. Do note that unregulated medicine has its dangers. As long as people are left the choice between transparent herbal medicine (regulated quality bud etc.) when they choose and conventional western medicines with cannabinoids prescribed by their doctor and produced by the pharmaceutical industry after proper clinical trials, things look good. Stay polite, speak their language and guide the way in the right direction.

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