World Health Organization announces historic changes to cannabis scheduling

June 06, 2019 3 min read

World Health Organization announces historic changes to cannabis scheduling

2019 looks to be the year that cannabis finally gets the classification it deserves, freeing the plant from the legislative shackles that have stymied much needed research and banned countries worldwide from adopting medical cannabis programmes.

Last week the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) announced its recommendations for cannabis scheduling to member states of the Committee on Narcotic Drugs (CNC).

The committee was due to release their findings towards the end of last year, but requested an extension due to the complexity of evidence submitted by stakeholders.

Key among their recommendations is the removal of cannabis from the most restrictive scheduling (IV) of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where until now it has resided alongside fentanyl analogues, heroin and other opioids. The ECDD found the existing classification untenable as cannabis does not produce comparable ill-effects to other Schedule IV substances and has “shown therapeutic potential for relieving pain and other medical conditions such as epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.”

Cannabidiol formulations - will not be scheduled

Not only that, the committee has further recognised the safety and efficacy of CBD (Cannabidiol), the non-intoxifying cannabinoid found in hemp and Formula Swiss CBD products.

In a previous review, the ECDD had ruled that CBD should not be scheduled within drug control conventions due to its safety, lack of toxicity or any potential for abuse. While referring mostly to purified CBD medications such as the recently FDA approved Epidiolex, the committee acknowledged that trace amounts of THC found in purified CBD extracts (such as the 0.15% THC in Epidiolex) pose no threat of addiction or abuse.

Full spectrum CBD oils with less than 0.2% THC - not under international control

Any doubts about how this might apply to full spectrum CBD oils sold as nutritional supplements around the world thankfully also were allayed. The committee recommended that a footnote be added to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs reading: “Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol and not more than 0.2 percent of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol are not under international control.”

This has massive implications, particularly in the United States, where CBD is still classified as a schedule 1 substance, despite earlier WHO findings.

Another positive move saw the proposed removal of cannabis extracts and tinctures from Schedule 1, with the committee acknowledging that many CBD rich extracts have little psychoactive effect and many therapeutic benefits.

What next?

After more than 50 years of cannabis prohibition, the recent WHO findings have sent an understandable wave of excitement through the cannabis and hemp communities. But there are still some i’s to dot and t’s to cross. The recommendations must be voted upon by member states at the upcoming 62nd CND session taking place in March 2019, although industry insiders expect most will vote in line with the WHO’s well-considered advice.

This rescheduling of cannabis and acknowledgement of its therapeutic value will hopefully undermine the outdated stance taken by many prohibitionist governments who have used the inaccurate UN scheduling to justify their refusal to legalize medical cannabis.

So, if the first month of the year is anything to go by, the future for 2019 around the world looks greener than ever.

This article was written by an independent and third-party author specialising in CBD, hemp and cannabis research. Any opinion, advice or recommendation expressed in the article does not reflect the opinion of Formula Swiss AG or any of our employees. We do not make any claims about any of our products and refer to our disclaimer for more information.


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