The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced their official recommendation that cannabis be rescheduled, from Schedule IV to Schedule I, based on an international drug treaty signed in 1961. In case you’re confused, the international drug classification system is ordered in the opposite direction of the one used here in the United States, where cannabis is currently a Schedule I drug, without any recognized medical benefit. The recommendation came in the form of a letter, not yet officially released to the public, written by WHO director, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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According to the WHO’s recommendation, cannabis would be reclassified as a Schedule I drug, considered harmful but with some recognized medical benefits. In the same announcement, the WHO also clarified its position on the distinction between products containing more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, from those which are made up of solely cannabidiol (CBD), one of the plants non-psychoactive but medically relevant ingredients. In fact, CBD now has a long list of recognized medical benefits, although the benefits of THC remain heavily debated around the world, and especially in the U.S.

A strong public supporter of marijuana legalization and editor of Marijuana Moment, a cannabis news platform, Tom Angell, said recently in an article for Forbes, “The practical effects of the changes would be somewhat limited, in that they would allow countries to legalize marijuana and still be in strict compliance with international treaties, but their political implications are hard to overstate. Taken together, recommendations, if adopted, would represent a formal recognition that the world’s governing bodies have effectively been wrong about marijuana’s harms and therapeutic benefits for decades.”

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The announcement by WHO certainly signals a global change in attitude towards cannabis, and, perhaps, even, official recognition by one of the most influential institutions in the world that previous bans on marijuana were unwarranted. Michael Krawitz is a U.S. Air Force veteran and an advocate for marijuana legalization. Said Krawitz, “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.”

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Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is an organization dedicated to ensuring safe access to legal cannabis for all Americans. According to the organizations founder and president, Steph Sherer, “We are extremely pleased that the World Health Organization has finally recognized the therapeutic potential of cannabis and its derivatives as a safe and effective medicine. With an international rescheduling or descheduling, the U.S. government can no longer use the excuse that cannabis has no medical value.”

The WHO’s recommendation is set to be voted on by the United Nation (UN) Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a committee made up of 53 member nations, taking place in Vienna, Austria, in March 2019.

The International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) has been heavily involved in groundbreaking research on the medical benefits of cannabis. ICCI researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo, had this to say: “It is gratifying that the World Health Organization has recognized the scientific fact that cannabis and its derivatives have demonstrable therapeutic properties and can be the base for safe and effective medicines. It is now incumbent upon governments of the USA and other nations to eliminate the barriers to research on cannabis and allow its free commerce across state lines and international frontiers.”