World Health Organization Won’t Regulate CBD, Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis

Friday, February 08, 2019

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new recommendations to reschedule cannabis and its chemical components under international drug treaties. WHO also clarified its position on CBD, recommending that cannabidiol containing less than 0.2% of THC “should not be under international control.”

The report, which hasn’t yet been formally released, recommends that whole plant cannabis and cannabis resin should be removed from Schedule IV and be downgraded to a Schedule I substance.

Currently, THC in all forms is included under both the 1971 and 1961 treaties, creating confusion. The new recommendations would remove THC from the 1971 Convention and place it in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention.

Pharmaceutical preparations of THC, including medications like Sativex, would be categorized as Schedule III under the 1961 Convention.

Under international drug treaties, Schedule IV is the most-restrictive category, whereas in the U.S. the most-restrictive category is Schedule I. Drugs in the most-restrictive category are considered to have no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse.

Michael Krawitz, a legalization advocate and U.S. Air Force veteran, told Forbes, “the placement of cannabis in the 1961 treaty, in the absence of scientific evidence, was a terrible injustice. Today the World Health Organization has gone a long way towards setting the record straight. It is time for us all to support the World Health Organization’s recommendations and ensure politics don’t trump science.”

Despite acknowledging the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, the WHO recommendations won’t throw open the door to international legalization. As Tom Angell explains, “the practical effects of the changes would be somewhat limited, in that they wouldn’t allow countries to legalize marijuana and still be in strict compliance with international treaties, but their political implications are hard to overstate.”

The biggest implications for WHO’s recommendations are for CBD. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a memo recommending removing CBD from the Controlled Substances Act. However, international drug treaties that require the regulation of cannabis, including CBD, prevented the change.

However, in the memo, the FDA noted that “if treaty obligations do not require control of CBD, or if the international controls on CBD change in the future, this recommendation will need to be promptly revisited.”

WHO’s recommendations were expected in December, but its release was delayed. Members of the United Nations could vote on the recommendations in March, but the delay in the release of the report could mean that the vote is pushed back until 2020.