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United Nations removes cannabis from ‘most dangerous drug’ category: Jamaica, US, UK, France, the Netherlands among members voted yes

The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) on Wednesday 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 by CND to reclassify cannabis could impact existing regulations around the world as many nations follow the lead of international protocols while legislating. According to policy experts, it’s a decision that could increasing scientific research and add momentum to efforts for decriminalising cannabis in countries where its use is most restricted, while further legalising the substance in others.

In its 63rd session, the 53-member CND has chosen to affirm the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation from January 2019 to remove cannabis from its ‘most dangerous’ category. A total of 27 Member States voting in favour, 25 against, and one abstention.

India was part of the voting majority, along with the United States and most European nations.

In the Caribbean region, Jamaica voted yes while Cuba voted against WHO’s recommendation to reclassify cannabis. Cuba and Jamaica are the only Caribbean countries among the 53 members.

The United Kingdom which is the head of state for several Caribbean islands inclusive of Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos voted yes to reclassify cannabis. The United States which Caribbean Islands such as St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John fall under also voted yes. The Netherlands and France which also head of state for several Caribbean islands also voted yes. China, Pakistan and Russia were among those who voted against, while Ukraine abstained.

Cannabis plant

This move by CND to remove cannabis from a list that categorized it as one of the most dangerous drugs is a growing trend in recognizing the plant as having medicinal value. The reclassification essentially means that cannabis is no longer in a category alongside heroin and other opioids.

Substances classified as Schedule IV are a subset of Schedule I drugs which means that they are considered to be “highly addictive and highly liable for abuse”, in addition to being labeled as “particularly harmful and of extremely limited medical or therapeutic value.”

Although Wednesday’s vote means that cannabis and cannabis resin are no longer classified as among the most harmful substances and are acknowledged as having medical benefits, the plant will still be subject to restrictions under the Schedule I category.

The move, although symbolic, may not have an immediate impact on how governments around the globe control scheduled substances. However, it could give a boost to re-examine existing regulations that seek to criminalize the use of the plant. The reclassification could also give a boost on medical cannabis legalization efforts in countries that look to the United Nations for guidance.

Members of CND also rejected four other recommendations from WHO about cannabis and its derivatives, which included removing extracts and tinctures of cannabis from Schedule I status and classifying a psychoactive component of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

List of how countries voted for recommendation to reschedule cannabis:

Country Vote

Australia Yes

Austria Yes

Belgium Yes

Canada Yes

Colombia. Yes

Croatia Yes

Czech Republic Yes

Ecuador Yes

El Salvador Yes

France Yes

Germany Yes

India Yes

Italy Yes

Jamaica Yes

Mexico Yes

Morocco Yes

Nepal Yes

Netherlands Yes

Poland Yes

South Africa Yes

Spain Yes

Sweden Yes

Switzerland Yes

Thailand Yes

United Kingdom Yes

United States Yes

Uruguay Yes

Afghanistan No

Algeria No

Angola No

Bahrain No

Brazil No

Burkina Faso No

Ivory Coast No

Chile No

China No

Cuba No

Egypt No

Hungary No

Iraq No

Japan No

Kazakhstan No

Kenya No

Kyrgyzstan No

Libya No

Nigeria No

Pakistan No

Peru No

Russia No

Togo No

Turkey No

Turkmenistan No

Ukraine Abstention

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