Following the recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending that the current international classification of cannabis be revised, and in light of an upcoming United Nations (UN) review on cannabis, the Trump administration is seeking public opinion regarding marijuana legalization.

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The UN has historically expressed strong disapproval towards efforts at cannabis legalization, with cannabis being strictly regulated under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as well as the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking for public comments on whether cannabis should be officially reclassified. In a Federal Register notice published last week, the FDA asked for input regarding “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking and [the] impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use.”  Anyone who is interested in submitting a comment can do so according to the instructions found here.

UN chamber iStock / bwzenith

The comments received will be taken into consideration by the FDA prior to the upcoming UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which will be held in Vienna, Austria, between March 18th and March 22nd of this year.

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According to the Federal Register notice,

“Any comments received will be considered by [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)] when it prepares a scientific and medical evaluation for drug substances that is responsive to the WHO questionnaire for these drug substances. HHS will forward such evaluation of these drug substances to WHO, for WHO’s consideration in deciding whether to recommend international control/decontrol of any of these drug substances.”

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In the United States, despite cannabis being either recreationally or medicinally legal in 31 states and the District of Columbia, on the federal level, marijuana remains illegal and highly criminalized, classified as a Schedule I drug.

According to the information given on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin…LSD…marijuana (cannabis).”

Don’t expect changes anytime soon, though. The HHS has already stated that it won’t be recommending any changes to the current classification of cannabis until the UN panel announces its decision following the upcoming summit in Vienna. The recent Federal Register notice published by the FDA addresses this issue as well: “Instead, HHS will defer such consideration until WHO has made official recommendations to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs… Any HHS position regarding international control of these drug substances will be preceded by another Federal Register notice soliciting public comments.”

Earlier this year, the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) announced that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, should be reclassified. According to a UN review of the risks and benefits associated with CBD, “CBD has been found to be generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. There is no evidence that CBD as a substance is liable to similar abuse and similar ill-effects as substances…such as cannabis or THC…The Committee recommended that preparations considered to be pure CBD should not be scheduled.”