Advocates Take Cannabis Crusade to UN
The United Nations haven't addressed cannabis in a special session for 17 years.
Published on February 24, 2016

Ever wonder why cannabis is consistently prohibited globally? Cannabis policy in the United States and many other nations can be traced to the UN Single Convention of 1961. Sovereign nations craft cannabis policies based on the UN Single Convention. Representatives of the Americans for Safe Access and a handful of other groups met in preparation for the latest installment of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session.

A new effort to urge cannabis and drug policy reform on a global scale is happening this spring at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs has been used by multiple governments to “derail” attempts to reform cannabis prohibition, and consequently, life-saving medical cannabis research. In 1961, the World Health Organization and Commission on Narcotic Drugs were given full power to add or remove whatever drug they see fit on the four schedules of banned substances. Recent analysis has indicated that the Single Convention was heavily influenced by a WHO official, Pablo Osvaldo Wolff, and not based on anecdotal evidence. Decades of doubts and a wait-and-see attitude have gotten cannabis reform nowhere.

Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, joined Michael Krawitz, Executive Director of the Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access and other members of organizations. The groups hope the UN will finally address cannabis reform at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS 2016.)

Cannabis is currently banned globally as Schedule I and IV of the Single Convention of Narcotics. “The current international policies on cannabis are outdated and are having a detrimental impact on patients in the United States and worldwide,” Sherer told the National Pain Report. “New policies should take into account new clinical research, product safety protocols for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution, and global patient needs.”

The UN should at least recommend removing cannabis from Schedule IV, which is reserved for substances that are “particularly dangerous properties and lack therapeutic value.” A WHO recommendation could remove cannabis from both schedules.

Currently Canada, Israel, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Romania, Germany, Jamaica, Australia, Italy, Columbia, Switzerland and not to mention over two-thirds of the population of the United States have legalized medical or recreational cannabis.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS 2016) on drug policy is aptly scheduled to take place on April 19th-21st. UNGASS 2016 will address major topics that could reform global drug policy. They will review the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

The “Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Policy, Research and Medical Practice” conference was held in Prague on March 4-7, 2015. Representatives of medical cannabis patients from 13 countries established the International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC), and put together an official declaration for the upcoming UNGASS 2016 schedule.

Obviously, cannabis should have never been justified as a Schedule I and IV drug. This could be the year that the UN decides to address the uncomfortable issue of cannabis reform.

Benjamin M. Adams
Benjamin Adams is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a slew of publications including CULTURE, Cannabis Now Magazine, and Vice. Follow Ben on Twitter @BenBot11
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