By Peter Sinkamba
Today, Wednesday the 2nd of December, 2020, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) accepted a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
The historic vote in Vienna will have far-reaching implications for the global medical cannabis industry, ranging from regulatory oversight to scientific research into the plant and its use as a medicine.
The eagerly awaited approval of Recommendation 5.1 had a slim majority in favour with 27 votes for, one abstention and 25 votes against The CND – the main drug policymaking body within the United Nations – turned down all five remaining recommendations.
The passage of Recommendation 5.1 carries broad symbolic significance for medical cannabis, as it could help boost medical cannabis legalization efforts around the globe now that the CND tacitly acknowledges the medical utility of the drug.
As the Green Party, and the Zambian Hemp Growers and Industries Association, we wholeheartedly welcome the result of the vote, and are hopeful that with this development, industrialisation of African countries through industrial and medical cannabis will be a reality.
Zambia religiously follows the UN scheduling in our legislation. Consequently, the country has considerably lagged behind to jump on to the marijuana groovy train. This development will definitely remove obstacles to use cannabis for industrial, medical and research purposes.
The vote will encourage us to reevaluate how cannabis is classified on our national lists of narcotic drugs, paving the way for more investments and research into medical and industrial marijuana and its various uses.
While the move does not totally free cannabis from treaty control, it is a giant step toward the normalization of cannabis in medicine and industrial uses.
Decades of efforts have been necessary to remove cannabis from Schedule IV.
Drugs in Schedule IV of the 1961 treaty – where, until today, cannabis sat alongside heroin – are a subset of those already in Schedule I.
Schedule I – which includes fentanyl – already requires the highest levels of international control.
The schedules of the international drug-control conventions categorize drugs considering their medical utility versus the possible harm they could cause.
Only the 53 current member states of the CND had an opportunity to vote, but this decision applies to all signatories of the international drug control conventions.