World Health Organization recommends rescheduling cannabis, provides clarity on CBD

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 December, Marijuana 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% 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.”

To sign up for our international/Canada cannabis business newsletter, click here.

14 comments on “World Health Organization recommends rescheduling cannabis, provides clarity on CBD
  1. Tom Blickman on

    Recommending to remove cannabis from Schedule IV is largely cosmetic; it still is in Schedule I so the control mechanisms do not change. In effect it is only a recognition of the potential medical value of cannabis. Positive, but not worth the big fuss.

    The WHO recommendations benefit Big Pharma: their products are in Schedule III, while the cannabis plant remains in Schedule I. #PyrrhicVictory

    Moving delta-9-THC from Schedule II of the 1971 Convention to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention is not something to applaud … Looks like a stricter control mechanism.

    • Janine Brown on

      Yes I agree with you. The Headline sounded good but reading the article I don’t see any big changes for legalising a harmless plant! The Pharmaceuticals will benefit yet again!

  2. Andrew Thickett on

    I think tobacco and alcohol should be re classified as they can cause more trouble than cannabis
    One is a major cause of cancer and the other makes many people anti-social andaggressive

    • Wild Bill on

      And I have seem more than a few pot heads who do nothing but get high and never leave the house. Intoxicants are intoxicants and should be regulated.

      • Pat on

        “And I have seem more than a few pot heads who do nothing but get high and never leave the house.”

        So, on a re-scheduling scenario, how does what you state above compare to all the negative sequela of the use and abuse of alcohol and tobacco products in this nation? And, are those two even scheduled? No they’re not. So, what kind of regulation are you suggesting around pot vs. tobacco/alcohol? I’m all ears..

      • OldTimeObserver on

        All the regulations in the world won’t change people’s behaviors, and people WILL do as they want. They couldn’t stop alcohol or cigarettes (tobacco, another natural plant). You cannot regulate behavior unless you use force, drugs, or both. People are already educated on these products.

  3. John Baker on

    Ok I smoke Cigarette have been since I was 9 years old…Started drinking alcohol at 14 years old and it alter mind so bad I could have kill some driving and I became so aggressive on it I was so mean on it..but I quite drinking at 34 years old and it was the most dangerous thing that I was on..I have had to have a lot of Surgeries in my life then I put on pain medicine in 1989 and I’m still on them still to day I’m addicted to them and between alcohol and pain medicine they are the to most dangerous things I have done in my life beside cigarette and we all know what they do to you health wise..Now I started smoking pot at the age of 18 I have been smoking it for 48 years now up till 2 months ago because they change Doctors at my pain clinic the Dr.said I had to stop smoking pot or I wouldn’t get my pain I had quite smoking pot that help me with pain an depression and anxiety because comming off the pain medicine would be the most horrifying thing I could do..So my bottom line is cigarette and alcohol and pain medicine is the most dangerous things that any body could take or do..And as far as pot it don’t harm you it helps you on a lot of ways I should know remember I smoke it for 48 years and it’s no problem to quit it I just don’t understand why it’s not legal. .just don’t understand..

    • Pat on

      Read: “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” to get your answer. You’ll find that a new chapter will be added with regard to how the state of ca. has morphed into the emperor role; w/the exception that this emperor is wearing a fig leaf, and calling it “all good.”

  4. Donald Cooper on

    “It should be noted that the ordering of the Schedules in the two Conventions is not comparable. In the 1961 Convention, Schedule IV is the most restrictive whereas it is the least restrictive in the 1971 Convention”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *