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CND monitor V5.4 – 15.10.2020

63rd Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations

MONITORING THE

UN/WHO CANNABIS

SCHEDULING

PROCESS

On December 2nd, 2020, governments will gather in Vienna to decide on changes in the scheduling and scope of control for medical cannabis and cannabis-related substances in international law, as recommended by an independent Expert Committee convened by WHO. This page monitors the proceedings, and the positions adopted by governments.

When & where

Where: United Nations
Vienna, Austria

When: 2nd Dec. 2020

Day(s)

:

Hour(s)

:

Minute(s)

:

Second(s)

Stakeholders

Scheduling decisions:

Vote by 53 UN Member States (rotating)

Other decisions:

Consensus of all UN Member States

V1: February 2020 / V2: March 2020 [archive] / V3: June 2020 [archive] / V4: Septembre 2020 [archive] / V5: Octobre 2020 [current]

The content on this page is under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 licence.
Authors:
Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli and Mickael Krawitz, 2020.

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Membership status
United Nations
Commission on Narcotic Drugs 
at its 63rd session

(countries entitled to vote)

CC BY-SA 4.0 Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, 2020. [Source here]

STATED POSITIONS OF VOTING COUNTRIES.

United Nations Member States, members of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its 63rd session

According to the most recent position statement made between June and Octobre 9th, 2020

IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS

 

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POSITION OF VOTING COUNTRIES.

as of Septembre 2020 (update upcoming soon)

United Nations Member States, members of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its 63rd session

Key: Countries in bold have shared a position; countries underlined have made substantive contributions; country underlined in green (Pakistan) is the acting Chair of the Commission.

GRULAC.

Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries
Brazil

March 4th, 2020: “It is incumbent on this Commission that we review all aspects, administrative, social, political, legal, and other aspects, that are part of the mandate of this Commission in discharging its responsibilities. It is also important for the Brazilian government that these are challenges that have to be undertaken in conformity with the UN Conventions on drug control, which provide us with a very clear legal framework for its Members, that need comply with. Brazil will be participating actively in this process, and we very much look forwards to continue working under [CND Chair’s] leadership, under the time we have agreed upon in differing action on these recommendations. These recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances are very important, and we are fully confident in this time that we have given ourselves for better understanding, clarifying issues, and continuing to working together for the good of our own populations.”

Chile

n/a

Colombia

March 2nd, 2020: We highlight the discussions that have taken place within the framework of the Commission regarding the recommendations of WHO on the changes in the scope of international control of cannabis and cannabis-related substances, and in particular, the [CND Chair]’s leadership in this process. We hope that the decisions that will be taken do move towards a more efficient international drug control system, that can adapt to new realities, and show the benefits of regulating safe and informed access to cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.”

 
Cuba

n/a

Ecuador

March 2nd, 2020: Ecuador values the efforts made so far by the CND about the changes in the scope of control of cannabis and cannabis-related substances, and considers desirable ahead of taking the vote, that this body dedicates sufficient additional time to examine the implications and consequences of the recommendations put forwards by WHO. Representatives of the national government participated in thematic sessions, round tables and technical debates throughout 2019, organized by the CND. Ecuador helped in facilitating the collection of reliable data by filling out forms and questionnaires for reporting.”

 
El Salvador

March 2nd, 2020: “Thank and express recognition for the leadership and efforts shown among last weeks, that enabled us to acheive a consensus on the topic of the WHO recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances.”

Jamaica

March 4th, 2020: “Take note of the decision to continue the consideration of the ECDD’s scheduling recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances during the current 63rd session, on the understanding that definitive action by way of a vote be taken at the reconvened 63rd session in December 2020. We also wish to extend our thanks to [CND Chair] and to the secretariat for your work in the consultation process thus far.

We are of the view that this approach does not undermine the WHO recommendations which have been instructive in guiding our decision-making on scheduling cannabis and cannabis related substances. We wish to thank the WHO for its contribution in this regard.

Jamaica acknowledges that this deferral will allow Members States that require additional time to further assess the impact of these recommendations. We encourage Member States to use this time for scientific and evidence-based evaluation. We are however mindful that continuing delay will not improve access and enhance palliative care for those individuals who are suffering from illnesses and disorders such as epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and wasting syndrome. These groups require this avenue of hope where all other options have failed. Jamaica looks forward to constructive engagement across the CND membership on the scheduling of cannabis.”

 


 

 

March 2nd, 2020: “At the 62nd Session of the CND, in March last year, my delegation placed on record its disappointment that the WHO’s recommendations on the scheduling of cannabis were not considered for adoption. Once more, the recommendations have been placed before the Commission for consideration and we urge that Members to firmly grasp this historic opportunity for the Commission to demonstrate its capacity to operate within the context of an ever-changing and innovative world.

The recommendations serve to make significant advancement based on scientific knowledge by acknowledging the medical and therapeutic benefits of cannabis. We owe it to the countless millions of persons in need of palliative care; to those suffering from illnesses and disorders such as epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and wasting syndrome. We owe it to them to provide this avenue of hope where all other options have failed.”

Mexico

March 4th, 2020: Mexico aligned with the position contained in the statement of European Union member states and other countries [see EU position from March 4th, under “European Union”].

March 4th, 2020: “One of the fundamental tasks of the CND is taking action in order to amend the Schedules for the international control of substances. Failing to fulfil this mandate set forth in the Conventions themselves, would mean sharking our role as a principal organ to address the world drug problem. In addition to having joined the statement delivered by the representative of the European Union, I would like to convey that, as Mexico sees it, postponing the taking of action on the recommendations of ECDD of the WHO based on the scientific analysis of cannabis and its derivatives, should not merely mean ‘postponing the date’ for this action; quite the contrary, rather it should compel us to ramp up our joint effort in order to better understand the technical interpretations and implications, in order to, therefore, fully carry out our role within the international drug control system, and thus carry out and fulfil our mandate. 

Undoubtedly, this is a very different time compared to that of 1961, when the Single Convention was adopted, and therefore Mexico once again recognizes the role and work of the WHO in undertaking a critical examination of cannabis and its derivatives. A plant which indeed was included in the control Schedules without prior analysis regarding its possible therapeutic properties, scientific uses, or psychoactive characteristics.

My country trusts that under [Chair’s] guidance and UNODC secretariat, we will start as of now our substantive work, bringing us up to December 2020. And, inter alia, Mexico believes that together, we could address the following tasks.

 – Identifying the recommendations that require further study; it is clear for everyone, for instance, that recommendation 5.1 does not require additional technical clarification. That is clear.
 – Carry on informal consultations to focus on those recommendations that are intrinsically interlinked., as well as other consultations in order to address pending consultations.
 – In order to prepare thoroughly for these consultations, we are committed to ensuring that [CND Chair] receives in due time indications from the Member States, regarding the bodies – in addition to WHO, the INCB and the UNODC – that should be convened in this exercise, given that they can provide valuable opinions, allowing us to fully understand the implications of these recommendations. Entities such as the World Customs Organization or the World Trade Organization.”

 


 

 

March 2nd, 2020: “Tenemos la obligación de cumplir con los roles que nos marcan nuestros acuerdos internacionales, por ejemplo, en materia de cambios en las listas de fiscalización internacional. Tenemos ante nosotros la obligación de tomar acción sobre las recomendaciones del Comité de Expertos en Farmacodependencia de la Organización Mundial de la Salud que resultaron del análisis crítico a la cannabis y sus derivados, análisis al cual le dimos la bienvenida. Para México, la posibilidad de posponer esa toma de acción no debe ser pretexto, sino que debe orientarnos a reconocer y reafirmar el papel clave de los órganos mandatados por los tratados, y obligarnos a debatir más que nunca sobre aquello que debe cambiar para mejorar la política internacional de control de drogas.”

Peru

August 24-25th, 2020: Peru expressed support for the recommendations 5.2 and 5.3.

 

 


 

 

Uruguay

March 4th, 2020: Uruguay aligns with the position contained in the statement of European Union member states and other countries [see EU position from March 4th, under “European Union”].

 

AG.

African Group
Algeria

March 2nd, 2020: “Algeria fully appreciates the efforts and propositions put forward by CND Chair in addressing WHO’s recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances which will hopefully reach the wise decision to postpone any action on the said recommendations. In this regard, Algeria is convinced that these recommendations will have political, social, economic, administrative, legal implications which deserve a thorough and careful examination and that there is absolutely no urgency in their treatment.”

 
Angola

n/a

Burkina Faso

n/a

Côte d'Ivoire

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Egypt

March 4th, 2020: “These recommendations need to be debated combined, that no recommendation be singled-out. It is important to highlight the repercussions on various levels: health, legal level, society and the regulatory level. Therefore, enough time needs to be afforded for careful consideration of those recommendations, and to deciding how they be debated. This needs to take into account domestic legislation and legal frameworks and the capacity of Member States to take up these recommendations.

 
Kenya

March 4th, 2020: “We note the postponement of the matter, and thank [CND Chair] for providing Member States with more time to review the proposal presented by WHO, and appreciate the work of WHO providing evidence-based recommendations to guide our scheduling mandate. I, however, wish to reiterate my delegation’s position on this matter, as read in our statement yesterday [see below] and to state that my delegation is not persuaded that WHO report addresses some of the logistical difficulties of guiding against diversion of cannabis to illicit markets. Our objection to this proposal is also informed by the fact that cannabis is the most problematic substance of abuse, responsible for the highest number of persons with substance use disorders. We see this rescheduling proposal as a formal legalization beyond the [???] provided by the current régime of the CND. We are convinced that the 3 international Conventions already provide access to such drugs and substances for medical and scientific purposes. Approving the WHO proposal will also result in a misunderstanding, and therefore result in uncontrolled abuse and misuse of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. I call upon the other Member States to take advantage of the time given to reflect on the impact of this proposal, so as to make an informed choice in December during the reconvened session of the CND.”

 


 

 

March 3rd, 2020: “It is our belief that the Conventions provide sufficient safeguards that allow access to such drugs and substances for medical and scientific purposes. We once again echo our strongest opposition to any attempt to push for the legalization of Cannabis and other controlled substances for any reason other than medical and scientific purposes. It is important to note that majority of developing countries are yet to establish effective and enforcement drug control mechanisms and legalizing these substances for recreational purposes will strain the already weak control mechanisms.”

Libya

n/a

Morocco

n/a

Nigeria

March 4th, 2020: “Nigeria recognizes the Treaty-mandated role of the WHO in recommending changes to the control measures for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The Commission has continued to play its role, in promptly implementing scheduling recommendations by WHO, especially where they pose no challenges to clarity.

However, my delegation has expressed serious concerns about the recommendations by WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence on the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. We believe that the reasons offered by ECDD for the recommendations are insufficient. Besides, the reasons relate only to scientific basis: no explanation has been profiled for the social, logical administrative and technical ramifications.

My delegation is also deeply concerned about global perception of such rescheduling proposal, which may be viewed as a shift and support for legalization of non-medical or recreational use of cannabis. This situation is further compounded by growing and disturbing appetite, in some jurisdictions, to legalize non-medical or recreational use of cannabis, as reported in the 2019 report of the INCB. Similarly, the 2019 World Drug Report identifies cannabis as the most abused substance in the world, posing serious threats to security, health and well-being of the global population. We reiterate that legalization of non-medical use of cannabis is a violation of international obligations under the drug control treaties. At the national level, cultivation and high traffic in cannabis still persist in Nigeria. These have necessitated us to prioritize our farmland identification and destruction strategy, which has resulted in the destruction of several hectares of farmland. 

Rescheduling cannabis in the manner proposed will be counter-productive to our prevailing situation on drug control efforts.

We are also concerned about the linkage between abuse of cannabis and rate of crime, including insurgency and banditry in Nigeria. Our national drug use survey launched in January 2019 revealed that over 10 million persons abuse cannabis in Nigeria in one year alone. Similarly, the report of the Nigeria Epidemiology Network of Drug Use shows that over 80% of those that access treatment abuse cannabis. It is against this background that the merits of the recommendations by WHO’s ECDD continue to face serious scrutiny. No meaningful action could have been taken by the Commission under the prevailing situation.”

 

 


 

 

February 20th, 2020: “The Government of Nigeria noted with concern that the questions raised with regard to the recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances had not satisfactorily been addressed by the World Health Organization.”

South Africa

August 24-25th, 2020: South Africa expressed support for the recommendations 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6.

 

 


 

 

March 4th, 2020: “The South African Government has carefully considered and read the recommendations of the World Health Organisation’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence regarding the proposed changes to the scheduling of cannabis, its tinctures, extracts, cannabis resin, dronabinol, tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol from the schedules and/or tables of the three international drug control conventions.

We commend the World Health Organisation for providing Member States with scientific and evidence-based information in assisting member states to formulate drug policies and programs to counter and address the world drug problem.

We are of the view that the recommendations are sound, balanced, and based on a critical review of the scientific evidence. These recommendations will serve as an important guide on how Member States should schedule the substances in their domestic legislation.

In conclusion, my government re-upholds its commitment to upholding the international drug control system as the foundation of its policy on drugs and related substances and ensures that the mission of its intention continues to comply with international obligations accordingly.”

 

 


 

 

March 2nd, 2020 (text): “My delegation would like to take this opportunity to express sincere appreciation for efforts in handling the process relating to the recommendations from the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence relating to cannabis and to commend Member States for upholding the Vienna spirit of consensus on this matter. While my government has kept a close ear to these recommendations and is already in a position to support the WHO’s ECCD recommendations as related to cannabis, my delegation will continue to work with member states in arriving at a mutual/amicable solution.”

Togo

n/a

APG.

Asia and the Pacific Group
Afghanistan

n/a

Bahrain

n/a

China

March 4th, 2020: “China welcomes the decision of the CND on postponing the rescheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. China believes that the adjustment of control on cannabis and cannabis-related substances is very complex and professional. Last year WHO and UNODC have listened extensively to the comments of various countries and repeatedly replied to the questions which China acknowledges. We hope WHO and ECDD will continue to strengthen its research on the dangers and risks of abuse of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. China supports a continued discussion of the scope of cannabis management and comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the influence of rescheduling cannabis and cannabis-related substances on public health. China will, as always, resolutely maintain the stability of 3 UN drug control conventions, supports CND and the WHO in actively performing its duties within the scope authorized by the conventions.”

 

 


 

 

February 20th, 2020: “The Government of China expressed its opposition to any form of relaxation of the controls on cannabis and cannabis-related substances. Cannabis and cannabis-related substances were extremely harmful to society. Any trend towards relaxing controls or towards legalization would sharply boost the spread of cannabis abuse and imperil drug control efforts in other countries as well as globally. Further, evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis was insufficient. The United Nations had an obligation to maintain the stability of global drug control policy, exercise prudence when changing it with regard to the substances under control and preserve the original control frameworks when there was insufficient evidence of any need for major changes:

  1. The Government of China opposed the deletion of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention, as the deletion would give people the mistaken impression that the control of cannabis and cannabis resin had been relaxed; would significantly reduce public awareness of the seriousness of the dangers of cannabis and cannabis resin; and would encourage more people, especially adolescents, to abuse cannabis. In contrast to opium, none of the phenolic components in cannabis plants had been found to be “irreplaceable” in clinical use. Further, it noted that keeping cannabis and cannabis resin in Schedule IV would not prevent the use of cannabis in scientific research and medicine and that the current value of cannabis and cannabis resin for medical use was not sufficient to support their deletion from Schedule IV;
  2. The Government of China stated that dronabinol should remain in Schedule II of the 1971 Convention. As a large number of synthetic cannabinoids were listed in Schedule II of the 1971 Convention, such as ADB-FUBINACA and FUB-AMB, the removal of dronabinol would create confusion. Further, the transfer from the 1971 Convention to the 1961 Convention would not reduce the possibility of abuse of this substance;
  3. Tetrahydrocannabinol should remain in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention, as WHO had not provided sufficient evidence to support the need to reassign tetrahydrocannabinol to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention, or evidence that the degree or likelihood of abuse or use of the substance in illicit drug manufacturing would be reduced as a result of that rescheduling. If the latest scientific research had not revealed substantial changes in the chemical properties or medical applications of a controlled substance, careful consideration should be given to any changes to controls on such substances; and changes to the existing control framework should not be lightly undertaken;
  4. The Government of China noted that cannabis extracts and tinctures should remain in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention, as the deletion would lead to the deregulation of cannabis and would further contribute to the development and spread of cannabis abuse;
  5. The Government of China noted that as cannabidiol, whether extracted from cannabis plants or chemically synthesized, inevitably contained trace amounts of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, WHO had to provide additional sufficient experimental data, drug dependence research reports, etc., to prove that a standard of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol content not exceeding 0.2 per cent was scientific and insufficient to cause harm;
  6. Furthermore, the Government of China expressed that dronabinol should remain in Schedule II of the 1971 Convention, and it did not endorse the inclusion of dronabinol preparations in Schedule III of the 1961 Convention, as evidence supporting the medical application of dronabinol was very weak, especially when compared with the current new drugs.”
India

n/a

Iraq

n/a

Japan

March 4th, 2020: “On behalf of the government of Japan, appreciate distinguished delegates from Member States, colleagues from WHO, INCB and UNODC, for having held constructive discussions on the recommendations regarding cannabis and cannabis-related substances so far, and finally reaching a consensus with a massive force by those committed here. […] We suppose the recommendations have significant impacts on social, economic, legal and administrative aspects for all Member States. Since some unclear points still remain, we should have further elaborated and careful discussion among Member States to accompany us for implementation of the Conventions.

The world drug problem is remaining serious; so we believe that the unity of all Member States fighting against drugs would be the most important thing to keep on. We appreciate the CND decision to continue discussing during the 63rd CND session to achieve conclusion. We would like to support further cooperation with all Member States, WHO, INCB, and UNODC within the given time. Japan is ready to continue to actively engage in further consultations and has supported INCB to conduct analysis and assessment of the impact of these recommendations with a view to facilitating a well-informed decision based on solid evidence within the given timeline.”


March 2nd, 2020: “During the 62nd session of CND, the Commission decided to postpone the voting on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding cannabis and cannabis-related substances. In this context, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the admirable leadership of Ambassador Khan during these months in steering our consultations. His strenuous efforts finally led us to find the common ground.

Given the complexity of the issues with their potential economic, social, legal and administrative implications, and possible consequences of these recommendations on our national regulatory systems, we support further deliberations on the 6 recommendations with a view to facilitating a well-informed decision based on solid evidence within a given timeline. Jaman is ready to continue to actively engage in further consultations.”


February 20th, 2020: “The Government of Japan stated that the vote on the scheduling recommendations should be postponed again by the CND until the consequences of rescheduling had been fully assessed and noted the following on the individual scheduling recommendations:

  1. The Government of Japan could not take a clear stance on the deletion of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention, because of inadequate evidence on the efficacy of the medical use of cannabis, and because of the impact on public perception of cannabis use, which might lead to loosening of regulations and to posing a public health risk;
  2. The Government of Japan could consider accepting the addition of dronabinol and isomers of THC to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention and the deletion of these substances from the 1971 Convention, as long as new standards and guidelines on the implementation of control measures of the Conventions by Member States were developed first;
  3. Regarding the deletion of “extracts and tinctures” from the 1961 Convention, the Government of Japan could consider accepting the recommendation, but would first like to analyze its impact on the implementation and oper ation of the international drug control conventions;
  4. The Government of Japan stated that it could not accept the insertion of a footnote on cannabidiol preparations, as serious concerns remained. The term “preparations” applied also to non-medical products and could therefore impair the ability of law enforcement. Further, the recommendation entailed the risk of potentially loosening the control of THC, which could inadvertently increase the risk to public health. Also, the recommended 0.2 per cent threshold of THC could become a barrier for research and development of future CBD medicinal products. Therefore, the threshold should not be specified and should be delegated to the pharmaceutical regulation of each State party. There was a need for further clarification on the threshold, as WHO indicated that it was specified by dry weight as a proportion of the total weight of the cannabis plant material;
  5. At this time, the Government of Japan could not accept the addition of pharmaceutical preparations of dronabinol to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention, as it might contribute to the abuse of THC due to the ambiguous terms of “preparation” and “pharmaceutical preparations”.”
  Current drug name(s) Current régime(s) of control Action recommended by the World Health Organization  Majority required Position taken by Japan ahead of the vote
5.1 Cannabis & Cannabis resin

1961-IV

1961-I

Delete from 1961-IV More positive than negative DELAY

5.2.1

5.2.2

9-THC

Dronabinol (and its stereoisomers)

1971-II Add to 1961-I More positive than negative MAYBE
Delete from 1971-II 35 positive votes

5.3.1

5.3.2

THC isomers

Isomers of Δ9-THC: Δ6a(10a)-THC, Δ6a(7)-THC, Δ7-THC, Δ8-THC, Δ10-THC, Δ9(11)-THC

1971-I Add to 1961-I More positive than negative MAYBE
Delete from 1971-I 35 positive votes
5.4 Extracts & tinctures of Cannabis 1961-I Delete from 1961-I More positive than negative MAYBE

Preparations of THC isomers

Preparations of ∆9-THC

1971-I

1971-II

5.5 Cannabidiol n/a Do not add No action NO

Extracts & tinctures of Cannabis

or Preparations of THC isomers

or Preparations of ∆9-THC

(only some)

1961-I Add footnote to Cannabis & Cannabis resin in 1961-I on preparations of cannabidiol with less 0.2% of ∆9-THC More positive than negative
5.6 1961-I

Add to 1961-III

(if compounded as pharmaceutical preparation in such a way that ∆9-THC cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health)

More positive than negative NO

1971-I

1971-II

Kazakhstan

Match 2nd, 2020: “Казахстан придерживается позиции о необходимости неукоснительного 6 соблюдения положений конвенций в отношении каннабиса и его производных. В этой связи полагаем преждевременной корректировку подходов к обеспечению мер международного контроля за его оборотом.”

 
Kyrgyzstan

n/a

Nepal

August 24-25th, 2020: Nepal expressed support for the recommendations 5.2 and 5.3.

 

Pakistan

n/a

Thailand

n/a

Turkmenistan

February 20th, 2020: The Government of Turkmenistan considered the deletion of cannabis and cannabis related substances from the 1961 Convention inexpedient.

 

EEG.

Eastern European countries Group
Russia
March 4th, 2020: “We align ourselves with your postponement decision. We are pleased that, as an outcome of the complex consultations, all members of the Commission shared their commitment to the Vienna spirit of consensus on such a sensitive and delicate issue. At the same time, my delegation would also like to underscore that the adoption of a substantive decision, by the Commission, on such a serious problem, requires solid evidence basis and comprehensive analysis of medical, scientific, legal, economic, social, administrative and other aspects of these recommendations. This is an issue of the prestige, authority, and trust placed in our Commission.

Unfortunately, to date, we have not seen any convincing exhaustive arguments to support the proposals which came from the international experts at the WHO.

We suggest the task of Commission at this stage is also to analyze what is behind the need to weaken controls on cannabis, which remains the most abused narcotic drug in the world. We hope that we will manage to receive answers to these questions during the intergovernmental meetings planned for the second half of the year in Vienna with participation of expert representatives from Ministries of health, law enforcement, as well as legal experts, to look at these 6 recommendations by WHO. We believe that this process will be open to all interested Member States of the UN. We are certain the results from this expert format will allow our Commission to adopt a well-considered and objective decision on the issue of cannabis.

In order to study this issue in detail, in addition to the opinion WHO, we need the opinion of INCB, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Conventions. It will be important to receive the legal conclusions of the [INCB] with regard to the cannabis control regime, included alleged existing limitations in the use of this narcotic in regards to medical and scientific purposes.

It would also be a good idea to analyse the precedents for the revision by the Commission of the scheduling of other substances from the point of view of their exclusion from Schedules. Russia intends to actively participate in work on this issue and we are counting on constructive cooperation with all delegations. We hope the objective dialogue in its expert format will allow Member States to determine their positions at the reconvened 63rd session of the Commission, and allow them to take a well-considered and objective decision on these recommendations.”

February 20th, 2020: The Government of the Russian Federation stated that a decision by the Commission to relax cannabis control would indirectly encourage the liberal experiments in a number of countries on full or partial legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in violation of their obligations under the international drug control conventions. The removal of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention would inevitably be perceived by society, especially young people, to mean that the drug was harmless. Diminished awareness of the risks associated with cannabis abuse would in turn lead inevitably to an increase in drug abuse among young people and entail serious social consequences. Further, the deletion of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV would mean that the parties to the Convention would be limited in their ability to apply stricter national control measures to cannabis according to their specific circumstances.

 

Current drug name(s) Current régime(s) of control Action recommended by the World Health Organization  Majority required Position taken by Russia ahead of the vote
5.1 Cannabis & Cannabis resin 1961-IV

1961-I

Delete from 1961-IV More positive than negative NO
5.2.1

5.2.2

9-THC

Dronabinol (and its stereoisomers)

1971-II Add to 1961-I More positive than negative NO
Delete from 1971-II 35 positive votes
5.3.1

5.3.2

THC isomers

Isomers of Δ9-THC: Δ6a(10a)-THC, Δ6a(7)-THC, Δ7-THC, Δ8-THC, Δ10-THC, Δ9(11)-THC

1971-I Add to 1961-I More positive than negative NO
Delete from 1971-I 35 positive votes
5.4 Extracts & tinctures of Cannabis 1961-I Delete from 1961-I More positive than negative NO
Preparations of THC isomers

Preparations of ∆9-THC

1971-I

1971-II

5.5 Cannabidiol n/a Do not add No action NO
Extracts & tinctures of Cannabis

or Preparations of THC isomers

or Preparations of ∆9-THC

(only some)

1961-I Add footnote to Cannabis & Cannabis resin in 1961-I on preparations of cannabidiol with less 0.2% of ∆9-THC More positive than negative
5.6 1961-I Add to 1961-III

(if compounded as pharmaceutical preparation in such a way that ∆9-THC cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health)

More positive than negative NO
1971-I

1971-II

Ukraine

March 4th, 2020: Ukraine aligned with the position contained in the statement of European Union member states and other countries [see EU position from March 4th, under “European Union”].

 

WEOG.

Western European countries and Others Group
Australia

n/a

Canada

March 4th, 2020: “Canada continues to strongly endorse the treaty-mandated role of the WHO to assess and make recommendations to schedule drugs based on its expert assessment of the latest scientific evidence. Its critical review of cannabis and cannabis-related substances resulted in several recommendations with complex implications. Over the past year, CND members have been working to gain a better understanding of the WHO’s reasoning behind the recommendations and to begin to consider their potential consequences. In this regard, Canada very much appreciates the answers already provided by the WHO, the INCB, and the UNODC within their respective mandates during the 4th and 5th intersessional meetings of the CND.

It remains our view that two recommendations were ready for a substantive vote and could have been adopted today. In the spirit of compromise, we were willing to postpone voting on those items to be defined at a date this year. We are hopeful that the legal and technical concerns that we ourselves have with the other recommendations will be addressed by further examination and clarification.

Like others, Canada acknowledges that this limited period of further study will allow States to consider additional legal, policy, and administrative factors. It is now incumbent upon all CND members to make optimal use of the intersessional meetings to hear from experts, engage in dialogue and address outstanding questions. As we do so, it’s imperative that we protect and preserve the integrity of the scheduling process itself and that we ensure that the decisions we take are based on scientific evidence and fact. We look forward to fulfilling our treaty-mandated responsibilities, voting on these recommendations at the reconvened 63rd session of the CND in December.

Switzerland

August 24-25th, 2020: Switzerland expressed support for the recommendations 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6.

 

 


 

 

March 4th, 2020: “For more than one year, Member States have had the opportunity to use intersessional CND to pose questions and to decide on their positions. Switzerland was prepared to vote on the recommendations during this CND and we regret that some Member States were not. We accept that they need more time to further consider the implications and consequences of the recommendations so they can make the necessary evidence-based assessments in order to vote on the issues in December, this year, at the reconvened CND.

We need to show the world, beyond the CND, that we are ready to assume our responsibility according to international drug control Conventions. That the international scheduling system still works and most of all that the international scheduling system is credible and fit for the future.”

 


 

 

March 2nd, 2020: “To address complex issues, it is high time to give due weight to scientific evidence and to a coherent scheduling of substances under the international drug control regime.”

Turkey
United Kingdom

March 4th, 2020: “Expressing the UK gratitude to the WHO, UNODC and INCB for their work on the recommendations we voted on this morning. We fully support the ongoing role of the WHO, UNODC, and INCB to ensure that international controls are in place for the most harmful substances. Turning to the recommendation on cannabis and cannabis-related substances, we would first like to thank the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence for their work on the recommendations and for their participation in the intersessional meetings to date. The UK continues to fully support the treaty mandated role of the WHO. It is important to underline that the WHO ECDD recommendations reaffirm that cannabis is subject to the full scope of international controls of the 1961 Single Convention. Due in particular to the high rates of public health problems arising from cannabis use and the global extent of such problems. We were ready to vote on the recommendations at this session but respect the consensus decision of the commission to postpone. We trust that through your leadership the CND will conclude on this process for a vote on the recommendations during the reconvened session in December. This is imperative so as to ensure that we preserve the integrity and credibility of the international scheduling system.”

 


 

 

March 2nd, 2020“We note the Commission was able to come to consensus on the way forward World Health Organisation’s recommendations regarding cannabis and related substances, but it is imperative that the vote takes place in December in order for the CND to fulfil its treaty mandated role”

United States of America

June 25th and August 24-25th, 2020: Although engaging in meaningful discussions of the content and implications of the recommendations, while recognizing the impotance of both the recommendations and the resulting discussions, the United States of America did not express likelihood for support when discussing recommendations 5.2, 5.3, 5.5 and 5.6.

 


 

 

March 4th, 2020: “The United States would like to echo the statement of the EU and Canada this morning [see statement of the EU from March 4th, under “European Union”] and offer these additional remarks to highlight key concerns to the United States.

We join consensus on the decision to vote on the WHO’s cannabis-related recommendations at the reconvened session in December in order to allow the members of the Commission and other Member States an opportunity to share their views on the economic, social, legal and administrative and other relevant factors raised by the WHO cannabis recommendations.

We recognize that differences in national situation will result in a diversity of viewpoints; we believe this is an important part of this process.

We will do our part and we urge the CND and other Member States to join us in committing to effectively studying these issues throughout the intersessional period so that all countries are prepared to cast their votes in December focusing on those questions which are within the CND’s mandate to consider and not question seeking to undermine or challenge the underlying scientific evidence.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly we wish to underscore the significance of the WHO’s critical review of cannabis but also put in perspective: the scientific review conducted by the WHO reaffirms the placement of cannabis under Schedule I of the Single Convention, the strictest set of controls in the 1961 Convention.

This is a major milestone in our collective efforts to control narcotic drugs liable to be abused, but also possessing the potential of therapeutic value. But as important as these cannabis figures are, we cannot lose sight of the stark reality that the world drug problem is vast and multi-faceted, and that much work remains to address the drug threats that are killing all our citizens today.

This important work cannot be sidelined by other deliberations, so the United States reaffirms its support for the efforts of the Chair and Member States to use these next 6 months productively so that the CND is ready to vote on the WHO recommendations in December. We look forward to our good work together. I thank you Chair.”

 


 

 

March 2nd, 2020: “Member states also must support and utilize the international scheduling system provided in our treaties to respond to new and evolving challenges. Data should be the primary driver of this process. We support the role of the WHO to recommend changes in international control based on their scientific, evidence-based assessments of risks of abuse, dependence, and harm to health of substances.

As the WHO accelerates the rate at which it can assess substances, it is especially important that the CND respond to all WHO recommendations in a timely manner. This includes making difficult decisions on cannabis, so that the commission can return its focus to more urgent drug control threats that are killing many of our citizens and undermining our security and public health. The United States remains firmly committed to consensus-based decision making here at the CND, including on this week’s procedural decision to vote on the cannabis recommendations at the Reconvened CND in December. We do regret that the CND was unable to take action on the WHO cannabis recommendations this week, given that Member States have been working hard since February 2019 to engage in an in-depth consultative process on the legal, administrative, social, and economic impacts of the recommendations. We would like to thank the WHO, the INCB, and UNODC for participating in all those sessions. It is now the responsibility of Member States to continue this process through the CND in a manner that ensures they arrive at the Reconvened session in December prepared to cast their votes.

It is important to highlight that the WHO recommendations have drawn our attention to important questions regarding the proper administration of the drug control system. In the absence of a timely response from the CND, these questions may give rise to discrepancies and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by traffickers, ultimately weakening the international drug control system. This lends urgency to our efforts. We look forward to working together to find creative and effective solutions to these challenges so the Commission can return to more urgent priorities.

The CND is a time-honored forum for sharing expertise and coordinating new and traditional partnerships. We must remain nimble to adapt to the drug-related challenges of today and tomorrow. The conventions give us the tools we need, and we look forward to working together with other member states to live up to our commitments and demonstrate our values through concrete action.”


January 2020: Document circulated with the following elements:

Unclassified – Handout for External Use:
Possible Responses to WHO/ECDD Cannabis Scheduling Recommendations

The international scheduling process is an essential tool for countering the world drug problem. Over the last several years, bringing additional substances under international control faster and more efficiently has been a central pillar of the world’s strategy to address the emerging threats of new psychoactive substances, fentanyl-related drugs and other synthetic opioids, and other dangerous substances. It is therefore vital that the international community continues to view the international scheduling process as functional, consensus driven, and responsive to scientific analysis. A failure to engage meaningfully with the WHO/ECDD’s cannabis scheduling recommendations could incorrectly imply that the CND and the international drug control treaties are ill-suited to tackle modem challenges. We cannot allow this perception to dominate the narrative of the CND’s debates over cannabis regulation; however, at the same time, Member States have expressed substantial confusion over the underlying meaning and potential impact of some of the WHO’s recommendations on cannabis, and many delegations are keen to study them in more depth before taking action on some or all of these proposals.

In some cases, the WHO/ECDD’s cannabis scheduling recommendations appear to have identified solutions to issues that not all CND members agree are problematic. The first step in building consensus is to identify clearly the issues the recommendations seek to address. Next, we must ask if we can agree on whether these issues are actually problematic. Finally, the Commission has a responsibility to consider the administrative, legal, socio-economic, and political considerations associated with the solutions proposed by the WHO/ECDD. Even if we decide that the costs of the solutions put forward by the WHO/ECDD outweigh the benefits, it is our responsibility to examine if we can propose alternative solutions, outside of the international scheduling process, that would address the issues identified by the WHO/ECDD.

In this spirit, the United States has developed discussion points and a wide range of possible solutions for each of the proposed WHO/ECDD recommendations. We have considered in this context that the CND has many different tools available to it beyond simply voting on scheduling decisions. This paper is intended only to serve as a starting point for further discussion among Member States, with a view to designing a pragmatic and balanced approach to discussing cannabis scheduling at the CND in the future. It is possible that the Commission may find itself in a position to take action on certain WHO recommendations in the short term — perhaps even at the 63″1 CND in March 2020 — while preferring to engage in a longer-term process to analyze the content, justification, and potential impact of other WHO recommendations. This paper is intended to help facilitate discussion regarding those actions that may be more appropriate for short-term consideration, and those which may benefit from additional consultation and review.

Recommendation 5.1

Decision Text: Delete Cannabis and Cannabis Resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention (retain in Schedule I).
Issue(s) Identified: Schedule IV classification may entail unnecessary barriers to research into the medical or scientific benefits as well as any consequent harms associated with use of the cannabis plant (and cannabis resin) and its constituent compounds (THC, CBD, etc.).
Is this Problematic: It is unclear what specific barriers Schedule IV entails that inhibits research into the scientific or medical benefits of cannabis. Germany, Israel, Australia, the United Kingdom, and several other countries, for example, have robust industries growing cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, despite cannabis’ Schedule IV listing. On the other hand, the WHO has said certain unspecified countries may place additional control measures on substances listed in Schedule IV and noted the effect of scheduling that has been reported by some countries. Similarly, scientists, doctors, and researchers in many countries, especially in countries with less developed regulatory systems, may believe that substances listed in Schedule IV are too dangerous for experimentation. A Schedule IV listing could therefore be seen as causing a psychological chilling effect on cannabis research globally, even as the effect varies by country.
Pros to adopting WHO recommendation: • Although the body of robust science is growing, there remains limited scientific evidence from well-controlled clinical studies to determine the safety and effectiveness of potential therapeutic uses of the cannabis plant. At least a few safe, effective, and authorized medications have been developed from cannabis to date (Sativex, Marinol, Epidiolex, etc.) demonstrating that the constituents contained in the cannabis plant do have therapeutic uses. While a schedule IV classification does not prevent the use of cannabis for research purposes, a statement encouraging research would be beneficial to the advancement of collective knowledge of both the therapeutic utility as well as any associated harms of cannabis. • Similarly, there is limited research regarding the problems associated with cannabis use and the public health threat of cannabis dependence. Encouraging countries to make cannabis available for research purposes would allow for advancing study of these important issues. • Schedule IV only invites member states to consider “special measures of control” over substances that have “particularly dangerous properties,” but does not place any additional mandatory controls on those substances. In practice, because cannabis is also listed in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention, most signatories already have domestic laws in place to regulate cannabis cultivation and distribution for medical and scientific purposes at or above the strictest levels required under the Conventions. Therefore, the recommendation has little practical impact on domestic laws or regulations. • Before the current review, the WHO had never conducted a formal review and scientific analysis of cannabis. The WHO’s recommendation to keep cannabis in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention (the strictest level of substantive control) after a thorough review of the available scientific literature could send a strong message that the high abuse potential and ill effects associated with use of cannabis and cannabis preparations are similar to other drugs in Schedule I and pose a significant public health risk.
Cons to adopting WHO recommendation: • It is possible that civil society, the media, and the general public will view deleting cannabis from Schedule IV as a first step toward widespread legalization of marijuana use, especially without proper messaging. • It is possible that a decision to remove cannabis from Schedule IV could be misinterpreted publicly to imply that Schedule N control levels pose inherent barriers to research, and that the international drug control framework is incompatible with such scientific research. This challenge would be possible to mitigate through an explanatory statement by the CND to clarify that the international drug control framework is effective and both promotes research and responds to available scientific evidence.
Possible Solutions: Whether we decide to accept, reject, return, or postpone consideration of the recommendation, the CND may wish to consider adopting an explanatory statement, either attached to the decision itself or as a separate resolution, that contains the following elements: • Thanks the WHOIECDD for its recommendations. • Acknowledges that cannabis was placed in Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention without the benefit of knowing about many of its constituent compounds, such as THC and CBD, and their effects on the human body. • Highlights that the WHOIECDD’s recommendation to retain cannabis in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention after a thorough scientific review demonstrates the significant risks to health associated with cannabis use, especially high potency preparations. • Stresses the need for further systematic research into both the health risks of cannabis and potential therapeutic uses. • Reminds signatories that even Schedule IV listings do not prohibit scientific research and invites signatories to remove unnecessary barriers to research wherever possible, taking into consideration the need for controls to prevent diversion and other illicit activity. • Invites UNODC, INCB, and international partners to continue providing technical assistance and capacity building efforts to law enforcement officials and public health practitioners to strengthen international control measures, address the public health consequences of cannabis abuse, and improve treatment techniques.

Recommendations 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1, and 5.3.2

Decision Text: • Add Dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol) to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (5.2.1). • Delete dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) from the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Schedule II, subject to the Commission’s adoption of the recommendation to add dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (5.2.2). • Add Tetrahydrocannabinol (understood to refer to the six isomers currently listed in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances) to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, subject to the Commission’s adoption of the recommendation to add dronabinol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in Schedule I (5.3.1). • Delete Tetrahydrocannabinol (understood to refer to the six isomers currently listed in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances) from the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, subject to the Commission’s adoption of the recommendation to add tetrahydrocannabinol to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (5.3.2).
Issue(s) Identified: The justification for these recommendations cited by the WHO/ECDD is that moving control of these substances from the 1971 Convention to the 1961 Convention will “greatly facilitate the implementation of the control measures in Member States.” During the June 23 and September 23 CND intersessional sessions the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and several other Member States pressed the WHO/ECDD, INCB, and UNODC to explain what specific control measures would be improved. The only explanation provided by WHO/ECDD, INCB, and UNODC is that Member States will be better able to understand reporting requirements to the INCB. Therefore, the issue appears to be that the INCB’s reporting mechanism for these substances is currently inadequate to address changes to how the substances are produced and categorized.
Is this Problematic: The U.S. agency responsible for reporting to the INCB has not reported any difficulties or confusion. Other countries may feel differently. This issue most likely impacts to the greatest degree large cultivators of licit cannabis, such as Australia. It may be beneficial, therefore, to focus inquiries on these countries. It should be noted that reporting under the 1961 Convention is mandatory and occurs yearly, whereas reporting under the 1971 Convention is voluntary and occurs once every three years.
Pros to adopting WHO recommendation(s): • Additional reporting on cannabis may provide additional information policy makers can use to make informed decisions about programmatic efforts and other issues. • Confusion about how to report to the INCB may be reduced among certain Member States.
Cons to adopting WHO recommendation(s): • The WHO/ECDD has provided no public health justification for these recommendations. They appear purely administrative in nature. • The removal of THC and its isomers from the 1971 Convention and their placement in the 1961 Convention could raise issues concerning whether THC found in or derived from the leaves or from cannabis cultivated for industrial or horticultural purposes is still under control. Pursuant to the 1961 Single Convention, cannabis as scheduled does not include the leaves, and pursuant to article 28, cannabis cultivated for industrial or horticultural purposes is not subject to the Convention. The authority to schedule substances does not include the authority to amend or overrule the text of the Single Convention. Even if an argument can be made that THC would be scheduled regardless of where it was found, this internal contradiction could undermine the Convention and should be avoided. • There may be unintended consequences associated with the scheduling change and domestic laws or regulations may need to be amended. For example, the 1971 Convention requires less frequent estimates and reporting of legitimate use by Member States than 1961 Convention. Understanding the full range of consequences will require significant time and effort. • The workload of domestic agencies reporting to the INCB will triple with respect to cannabis reporting. • The INCB has indicated it will require additional, unspecified, support from the UN Regular Budget to implement this recommendation.
Possible Solutions: • Ask the 1NCB to advise the Commission on difficulties encountered by States Parties reporting on cannabis under the 1961 Single Convention and THC under the 1971 Convention, and to recommend revised forms to be applied specifically to capture the totality of data required. The Commission could adopt these forms pursuant to Article 18 of the Single Convention and Article 16 of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, authorizing the Commission to request that Parties provide information to the Secretariat; • Ask the INCB to convene an expert working group to examine ways to clarify and improve reporting mechanisms for ❑9-THC such as consolidating reporting for cannabis under one form, instead of separate forms for the 1961 and 1971 Conventions, similar to how forms are consolidated for opium reporting. • Invite Member States to voluntarily provide information on cannabis cultivation yearly, or at other more frequent intervals, instead of once every three years, through a resolution or other decisional text.

Recommendation 5.4

Decision Text: Delete “Extracts and Tinctures of Cannabis from Schedule I of the 1961 Convention.
Issue(s) Identified; The WHO/ECDD has explained that the term “extracts and tinctures of cannabis” is outdated and duplicative of the term “preparations of cannabis,” which are already controlled under the 1971 and 1961 Conventions. Additionally, some preparations extracted from the cannabis plant have psychoactive properties and some do not. The WHOIECDD’s review emphasized that the variability in psychoactive properties is due principally to varying concentrations of THC, which is already scheduled under the 1971 Convention. Finally, the WHO/ECDD noted some preparations of cannabis have demonstrated therapeutic applications such as the authorized medicine Sativex.
Is this Problematic: The WHO/ECDD claims national regulatory agencies are confused by the extracts and tinctures terminology. The United States views the addition of extracts and tinctures as redundant with “preparations” and agree that eliminating the terminology would remove confusion concerning which regime controls in cases where a preparation that is also an extract or tincture has been moved to a different schedule than schedule I.
Pros to adopting WHO recommendation: • Confusion among national regulatory authorities may be reduced. • Adopting the recommendation would send a message that the CND is supportive of the WHO/ECDD’s findings.
Cons to adopting WHO recommendation: • Similar to recommendations 5.2.1 — 5.3.2, recommendation 5.4 is administrative in nature; no public health justification is apparent.
Possible Solutions: As no Member State has raised any concerns about this particular recommendation, it is difficult to contemplate alternatives to accepting, rejecting, or postponing consideration of the recommendation.

Recommendation 5.5

Decision Text: Add a footnote to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to read: “Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol and not more than 0.2 percent of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol are not under international control.”
Issue(s) Identified: Advances in scientific knowledge have made clear that there are no “pure” preparations that can guarantee the absence of psychoactive components. Medicines, beauty products, natural remedies, and other compounds that are non-psychoactive in nature, but are derived from plants that have psychoactive components may contain residual trace amounts of psychoactive material that could also be considered an “impurity,” as compared to an active ingredient of such a preparation. Preparations of predominantly cannabidiol (CBD) are excellent examples of this conundrum. As CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, CBD products will normally contain residual trace amounts of THC. During the September 23 CND intersessional meeting, UNODC, INCB, and WHOIECDD provided vastly different explanations of how the international drug control treaties should be interpreted to address this issue.
Is this Problematic: The international drug control treaties do not provide detailed guidance about how to deal with impurities or residual trace amounts of internationally controlled substances in preparations that are otherwise non-psychoactive in nature. This is a gap that may need to be addressed, but when in doubt, the parties should be guided by the object and purpose of the treaty.
Pros to adopting WHO recommendation: • Selecting a specific numeric threshold amount for the residual substance provides clarity to Member States about how to domestically control preparations that contain such impurities.
Cons to adopting WHO recommendation: • At the September 23 CND intersessional meeting the WHO/ECDD clarified that the 0.2 percentage figure selected is calculated on a dry-weight basis. However, the text of the recommendation does not make this clear, and we previously understood from the WHO/ECDD that the 0.2 percent figure was calculated by weight by volume in a final preparation or solution. A technical correction or clarification will likely be necessary before CND Member States can accept the recommendation, since the WHO recommendation text is not clear as currently worded. • Many countries have already considered and developed policies to regulate CBD products and have chosen thresholds for allowable delta-9-THC content that are above or below the WHOIECDD’s recommended 0.2 percent. For example, Switzerland uses a one percent threshold, and the United States a 0.3 percent threshold on a dry-weight basis. Adopting the resolution may therefore be inconsistent with some Member States’ existing domestic laws and may be unacceptable to a portion of the CND membership on grounds.
• There are many other non-psychoactive components of the cannabis plant (perhaps as many as 200). Medical research is ongoing for some of these components, and as new products are developed, new footnotes may need to be added to cover these other components. This may, in effect, create an additional schedule for the 1961 Convention. The default assumption is and should be that non-psychoactive substances are not under international control. This footnote could turn this assumption on its head and create a cumbersome process of adding potentially endless footnotes to the schedules every time products are developed that mix psychoactive and non-psychoactive components.
Possible Solutions: It is not the responsibility of UNODC, INCB, or the WHO to interpret the international drug control treaties. States Parties instead have a primary duty to identify and address any gaps in the international drug control treaties with regard to trace residual amounts and impurities of internationally controlled substances in preparations that are otherwise non-psychoactive in nature. We note, however, that the treaties acknowledge the principle that the offenses referred to in the conventions “shall be defined, prosecuted and punished in conformity with the domestic law of the Party.” In our view, this preserves the right of each State Party to determine whether there will be a threshold, and if so, what that threshold should be, guided by the general intent to prevent diversion to illicit purposes. States Parties therefore may wish to develop a policy paper, resolution, or other decisional text for consideration by a future CND that provides general guidance to States Parties on how preparations that are non-psychoactive in nature, but contain residual trace amounts of psychoactive components, should be addressed. Some elements may include: • Statements recognizing that CBD, although it is derived from the cannabis plant, is not psychoactive, is already used for therapeutic purposes in several medicines, and there is no evidence of its abuse. Therefore, it is contrary to the purposes of the Convention to subject it to international control once CBD is no longer part of cannabis. • An acknowledgement that CBD should not be under international control, despite the fact that it contains residual trace amounts of THC; for example, by providing a definition of “pure” CBD, or by allowing Member States to determine what is considered pure. • General guidance about how CBD products should be produced in such a way that THC is not readily recoverable or recoverable only in yields that would not pose a risk to public health. Care should be taken to ensure flexibility for Member States to set reasonable THC thresholds that make sense in domestic contexts. • More generally, a recognition that the CND is the body empowered to make recommendations on all matters related to the aims of the conventions.

Recommendation 5.6

Decision Text: Add preparations containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol), produced either by chemical synthesis or as a preparation of cannabis, that are compounded as pharmaceutical preparations with one or more other ingredients and in such a way that delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol) cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention.
Issue(s) Identified: Several existing authorized medicines such as Marinol and Syndros contain a psychoactive compound (09-THC). The WHO/ECDD recognized that such preparations have formulations with decreased likelihood of abuse and lack evidence of actual abuse or ill effects that would justify either Schedule I of the 1961 Convention or Schedule II of the 1971 Convention. However, the WHO/ECDD believes that adding these preparations to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention would not impeded access to these medicines while assuring some warranted measure of control.
Is this Problematic: The WHO/ECDD review acknowledges that existing evidence concerning the use of medicines containing i9-THC indicates such medicines are not associated with problems of abuse and dependence and that they are not diverted for the purpose of non-medical use. Initially it was thought that this recommendation would not be undertaken unless the Commission decided to move THC from the 1971 Convention to the Single Convention, but when asked to clarify, the WHO/ECDD maintained that its recommendations were not linked. In our view, if THC is not moved to the 1961 Convention, there is no basis to consider moving preparations of THC into the 1961 Convention.
Pros to adopting WHO recommendation: • A Schedule III listing exempts preparations with low abuse liability from certain control measures, but still provides some protection.
Cons to adopting WHO recommendation: • A Schedule III listing imposes additional regulatory burdens on Member States. • Additionally, the recommendation refers to “pharmaceutical” preparations, which is not a defined term under the Single Convention. Introducing an undefined term into the schedules may lead to further confusion. Further, without agreement as to what constitutes a “pharmaceutical preparation,” almost any preparation, including butane hash oil, could be so construed.
Possible Solutions: Preparations in Schedule III must contain drugs scheduled elsewhere in the 1961 Convention. If the recommendation to reschedule delta-9-THC from the 1971 Convention to the 1961 is not accepted, this may obviate the need to vote on recommendation 5.6.

EU.

European Union Member States’ imperative mandate
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden

European Union countries, that are also members of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, take action jointly via an “imperative mandate” (all EU countries vote the same thing, previously agreed in the Brussels-based Horizontal Drugs Group). For more information on the imperative mandate’s process and history, see Crimson Digest, pp. 30-32.

August 24-25th, 2020: Belgium and Germany expressed support for the recommendations 5.2 and 5.3.

 

 


 

 

March 4th, 2020: “We were ready to vote today about most of the WHO recommendations; we regret that the majority of countries was not. Therefore in order to provide the Member States concerned additional time to finalize their respective assessments based on facts and evidence we did not oppose the postponement of the vote at the Reconvened Session. We are ready to continue discussions. At that moment, we have to assume our responsibilities to preserve the credibility of the system of scheduling. We trust with your leadership and guidance; we will be ready to vote then.”

This position is supported, beyond European Union members, by: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and Uruguay.

The United States of America also echoed the EU position in their statement.

 


 

Documents 5602/20 + ADD 1, 5575/20 CORDROGUE:

Current drug name(s) Current régime(s) of control Action recommended by the World Health Organization  Majority required Common position set by European Union Member States ahead of the vote
5.1 Cannabis & Cannabis resin

1961-IV

1961-I

Delete from 1961-IV More positive than negative YES

5.2.1

5.2.2

9-THC

Dronabinol (and its stereoisomers)

1971-II Add to 1961-I More positive than negative YES
Delete from 1971-II 35 positive votes

5.3.1

5.3.2

THC isomers

Isomers of Δ9-THC: Δ6a(10a)-THC, Δ6a(7)-THC, Δ7-THC, Δ8-THC, Δ10-THC, Δ9(11)-THC

1971-I Add to 1961-I More positive than negative YES
Delete from 1971-I 35 positive votes
5.4 Extracts & tinctures of Cannabis 1961-I Delete from 1961-I More positive than negative TBA

Preparations of THC isomers

Preparations of ∆9-THC

1971-I

1971-II

5.5 Cannabidiol n/a Do not add No action TBA

Extracts & tinctures of Cannabis

or Preparations of THC isomers

or Preparations of ∆9-THC

(only some)

1961-I Add footnote to Cannabis & Cannabis resin in 1961-I on preparations of cannabidiol with less 0.2% of ∆9-THC More positive than negative
5.6 1961-I

Add to 1961-III

(if compounded as pharmaceutical preparation in such a way that ∆9-THC cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health)

More positive than negative TBA

1971-I

1971-II

FOLLOW-UP MECHANISM AND PROCEDURES.

As of 14 Octobre 2020
[Chair] Non-Paper - Voting procedure on WHO cannabis scheduling recommendations at the reconvened 63rd CND (Octobre 2020)

Chair’s Non-Paper on the “Voting procedure on WHO scheduling recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances at the reconvened 63rd session” as of Octobre 5th, 2020.

1. Introduction

In January 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the (re-)scheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances under the international drug control conventions (an overview of the recommendations is attached as Annex 1). In March 2020, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) decided to vote on these recommendations at its reconvened session in December 2020 (Decision 63/14).

The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the default voting procedure, applicable to the scheduling vote at the reconvened session. Further, the paper includes two proposals that would allow the Commission to deviate from the default voting procedure. In this paper, it is proposed to (1) vote jointly on recommendations 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1, 5.3.2 and establish a substantive link to recommendation 5.6 and, additionally, (2) to align the order of recommendations for the voting with the order in which they were taken up during the intersessional period.

2. Default voting procedure

This part of the paper only provides a snapshot of the scheduling procedure. A more detailed explanation can be found in the brochure on the scheduling procedures1 that was produced by the secretariat to the Commission.

The voting procedure for WHO scheduling recommendations is defined by the 1961 Convention, the 1971 Convention and the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of the ECOSOC, as well as past practice.

The CND would by default vote on each recommendation separately in the order in which WHO submitted the recommendations, meaning first recommendation 5.1, then 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1, 5.3.2, 5.4, 5.5. and finally, 5.6, taking into account the conditionalities contained in the WHO recommendations (illustrated in Annex 2).

The voting itself is by default by show of hands, i.e. the Chair will ask Commission members in favour to raise their country plate, then the ones against and finally, he will ask for abstentions. If a Commission member was to request a roll call, the Chair will instead call upon each Commission member individually in the alphabetical order of the names of the respective States and ask if the member wishes to vote in favour or against or would like to abstain. In the case of a roll-call vote, the decision of each Commission member will be reflected in the report of the session.

Under the 1961 Convention, and on the basis of the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of the ECOSOC, a simple majority (more than 50%) of the Commission members present and voting is needed to add, delete or re-schedule a substance. Members which abstain are considered as not voting. Under the 1971 Convention, decisions require a two-thirds majority of all CND members, which means that at least 36 Commission members have to vote in favour to add, delete or re- schedule a substance.

3. Combining voting on recommendations 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1 and 5.3.2, and establishing a substantive link to recommendation 5.6

a. Reasoning for proposal

Among others, WHO recommended the (re-)scheduling of the following cannabis and cannabis-related substances:

i. Recommendation 5.2.1 Dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)

To be added to Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)

ii. Recommendation 5.2.2 Dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)

To be deleted from Schedule II of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), subject to the CND’s adoption of the recommendation to add dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol) to Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)

iii. Recommendation 5.3.1 Tetrahydrocannabinol (isomers of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)

To be added to Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) subject to the CND’s adoption of the recommendation to add dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol) to Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)

iv. Recommendation 5.3.2 Tetrahydrocannabinol (isomers of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)

To be deleted from Schedule I of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), subject to the CND’s adoption of the recommendation to add tetrahydrocannabinol to Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)

v. Recommendation 5.6 Preparations containing dronabinol, produced either by chemical synthesis or as preparation of cannabis, that are compounded as pharmaceutical preparations with one or more other ingredients and in such a way that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol) cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health

• To be added to Schedule III of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)

As explained above, in accordance with the international drug control conventions, as well as past practice, the CND would by default vote on each of these recommendations separately. For each vote the required majority under the respective convention would apply.

During the second topical meeting, held on 24 and 25 August 2020, Member States discussed recommendations 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6, possible voting outcomes and their legal, administrative, social and economic implications. Possible vote outcomes for recommendations 5.2 and 5.3, if all recommendations are voted on separately, are illustrated in the decision tree attached as Annex 2.

Several delegations raised concerns regarding possible outcomes that would create major administrative and legal challenges at the national and international levels. In the following paragraphs, three outcomes have been identified to exemplify these concerns. The examples are merely illustrative (other issues have also been mentioned by Member States and not all Member States might consider the following outcomes as challenging).

As the recommendations 5.2 and 5.3 are phrased, there would be a risk that dronabinol and its stereoisomers, as well as tetrahydrocannabinol (isomers of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are included in both the 1961 Convention and the 1971 Convention. This could happen if the substances were added to the 1961 Convention but failed to be deleted from the 1971 Convention. As the majorities required under each of those conventions differ, there would be a risk that the substances would be scheduled under both Conventions. The votes might be sufficient to fulfil the simple majority requirement applicable under the 1961 Convention, but not sufficient to fulfil the two-thirds majority requirement of the 1971 Convention, and thus the substance would not be deleted from the 1971 Convention. Having the same substances scheduled at the same time under both Conventions could cause uncertainties regarding treaty obligations, including reporting and applicable control measures. The situation could also pose administrative and legal challenges at the national level.

Secondly, from a chemical point of view, dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and tetrahydrocannabinol (isomers of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol) are closely related. The relationship among these substances is illustrated in Annex 3. Due to their similarity in nature, it is very difficult to distinguish between the substances. Transferring one to the 1961 Convention but keeping the other in the 1971 Convention would potentially create difficulties for States parties, as to the applicable control regime.

Thirdly, if voting on recommendation 5.6 was to take place separately from the voting on recommendations 5.2 and 5.3, it would also be possible that dronabinol itself remained scheduled under the 1971 Convention but preparations of dronabinol were added to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention. As the 1971 Convention also addresses preparations of scheduled substances, preparations of dronabinol might thus be subject to the control regimes of both the 1961 and the 1971 Conventions.

b. Procedural Considerations

In answering a query by the Extended Bureau of the CND, the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) explained that the CND may decide to deviate from the default procedure “voting on each recommendation separately”, i.e. the Commission could vote jointly on two or more recommendations, if it decides to do so.

For this purpose, a procedural decision would be required before the actual vote on the scheduling recommendation under the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commission of ECOSOC. According to the Rules of Procedure, such a procedural decision requires a simple majority of Commission members present and voting. However, the past practice of the Commission has been to take procedural decisions by consensus.

Based on this legal assessment and the possible legal and administrative challenges that separate votes on each recommendation may cause, it is suggested to take a procedural decision to combine the voting on recommendations 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1 and 5.3.2.

OLA also indicated that it was up to the Commission to decide on the majority required, in the case a recommendation under the 1961 Convention was voted on jointly with a recommendation under the 1971 Convention.

Therefore, it is further suggested to apply the two-thirds majority requirement to the combined vote. By opting for the two-thirds majority as the higher threshold, the Commission would avoid taking a decision under the 1971 Convention that would not have been possible if separate votes were held.

Additionally, it is suggested that the Commission establishes a substantive link to recommendation 5.6. If the joint recommendations (recommendations 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1 and 5.3.2) were rejected, recommendation 5.6 shall be deemed as rejected, in order to avoid that preparations of dronabinol were (also) scheduled in the 1961 Convention, while dronabinol remained in the 1971 Convention. In case the joint recommendations are accepted, the Commission would proceed to vote on recommendation 5.6.

The decision tree below illustrates the proposed proceeding:

c. Draft Procedural Decision for consideration by the Commission

<< The Commission on Narcotic Drugs, at its x meeting, on 2 December 2020, decides that the following scheduling recommendations of the World Health Organization on cannabis and cannabis-related substances will be acted upon in one vote:

      • To add dronabinol and its stereoisomers to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention
      • To delete dronabinol and its stereoisomers from Schedule II of the 1971 Convention
      • To add tetrahydrocannabinol to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention
      • To delete tetrahydrocannabinol from Schedule I of the 1971 Convention.

The Commission further decides that a two-thirds majority of the Commission members is needed in order to take a decision on the above-mentioned recommendations.

Further, the Commission decides that if the above-mentioned recommendations are rejected, the following recommendation shall be deemed as rejected:

      • To add preparations containing dronabinol, produced either by chemical synthesis or as preparation of cannabis, that are compounded as pharmaceutical preparations with one or more other ingredients and in such a way that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol) cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention. >>

4. Order of voting

As explained above, by established practice, the Commission would by default vote on the recommendations in the order of submission by WHO. However, during the intersessional considerations the Commission began with the consideration of recommendations 5.4 and 5.5, followed by 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6 and finished with recommendation 5.1. It is suggested to apply this order also for the voting during the reconvened session.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, in order to ensure a smooth process, the following course of action is proposed with regard to the voting on the WHO scheduling recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances.

 

If the Commission cannot agree on the process outlined above, the default procedure will be followed, which is outlined below. As explained above, there is a risk under the default procedure that dronabinol and its stereoisomers, as well as tetrahydrocannabinol will be scheduled under the 1961 and the 1971 Conventions.

[UNODC] eLearning tutorial on the Scheduling functions of the CND (Octobre 2020)

On Octobre 8th, 2020, the Secretariat to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNODC Secretariat to the Governing Bodies, or “SGB”) presented the online course they created on “the normative functions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs under the three international drug control conventions.”

The course “Introduction to Scheduling” is targeting all other stakeholders interested in the international drug control system. The SGB advises: “The course is designed in three separate parts. It is possible to follow the course online or download the different parts. We recommend to use Google Chrome for better functionality of the tutorial. In case your internet connection is not stable enough, there is also an option to download the three parts.” Clic on the images below to access the eLearning ttutorial.

Update in the schedule of meetings and CND Chairmanship (Sept. 2020)

In August 2020, the Extended Bureau of the CND announced the delay of the Third Topical Meeting to 6th and 7th Octobre, and the Intersessional to 8th October 2020. The updated schedule of meetings is as follows:

1ST TOPICAL MEETING Recommendations 5.4 and 5.5 24-25 June 2020
2ND TOPICAL MEETING Recommendations 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6 24-25 August 2020
3RD TOPICAL MEETING Recommendation 5.1 6-7 Octobre 2020
INTERSESSIONAL MEETING All recommendations 8 Octobre 2020

 

In September 2020, CND Chair, Ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan (see bio) was named at the Pakistan Embassy in Kaboul and Ambassador Aftab Ahmad Khokher (see bio) was named to replace him as Ambassador of Pakistan to the UN in Vienna.

However, Mansoor Ahmad Khan will continue performing his mandate as CND chair, travelling from Kabul when possible to steer discussions. When not present, the discussions will be steered by the Vice-Chairs of the Commission (Poland, Switzerland, Chile).

Tweet of the Director-General of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:


Tweet of the new Ambassador:

[INCB] Future Guidelines/Manual on the international requirements for the trade in cannabis for medical and scientific purposes (August 2020)

At the end of August, the International Narcotics Control Board posted a job offering for a consultant to prepare “guidelines/manual of good practices on the international drug control requirements for the cultivation, manufacture and utilization of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.” The guidelines are expected to have “an approximate length of 23,500 words (70 pages).”

See the archived job offering page.

[INCB] Analysis of the impact of the WHO recommendations on the control requirements of the international drug control system (June 2020)

Analysis of the impact of the WHO recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related products on the control requirements of the international drug control system – 15 June 2020; Secretariat of the INCB.

1- Introduction/background

 

Cannabis and cannabis resin are included under Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol (hereinafter ‘the 1961 Convention’) because they are liable to abuse and to produce ill-effects and do not have therapeutic advantages that offset these effects. The main cannabinoids with psychoactive properties, namely, THC and its isomers and their stereochemical variants, are included in Schedule I of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 (hereinafter ‘the 1971 Convention’). One of the isomers, namely delta-9-THC, and its stereo-chemical variants with one variant being dronabinol ((-)-trans-delta-9-THC), are currently listed in Schedule II of the 1971 Convention. While cannabis was found to have some therapeutic usefulness, there is a high rates of public health problems arising from cannabis use.

The treaties set out requirements on States Parties as to how they may allow the use of cannabis and its derivatives for medical purposes. Article 28 of the 1961 Convention on the control of cannabis refers to article 23 of the 1961 Convention on the control of opium that requires Governments to establish a government agency to control the production and regulate the supply of the controlled substance for medical and scientific purposes. The national agency is required to license producers, purchase and take possession of stocks and maintain a monopoly on wholesale trading and stocks. The agency must provide to the INCB annual estimates of the quantities of the drug that: will be consumed for medical and scientific purposes (providing also information on the number of patients to be treated with the drug); will be utilized for the manufacture of other drugs, of preparations in Schedule III and of substances not covered by the Convention; stocks of the drug; quantities to be added to special stocks; the area (in hectares) and the geographical location of land to be used for the cultivation; approximate quantity to be produced.

In addition to cannabis and cannabis resin, the 1961 Convention consider also extract and tinctures under control in Schedule I, but it does not explicitly list specific cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (isomers of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) has been put under control under Schedule I of the 1971 Convention and delta-9-THC under Schedule II of the 1971 Convention with different and less stringent, control requirements. Cannabidiol (CBD) is not explicitly listed but it is under control as an extract of cannabis under the 1961 Convention.

Currently an increasing number of countries have approved or are in the process of approving the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Similarly, an increasing trend is observed in a number of countries that are allowing the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis and cannabis-related substances for medical purposes. As of December 2019, 24 countries have reported to INCB that they permit the cultivation of cannabis for medical and/or scientific purposes. Information available to INCB indicates that an additional 9 countries are also permitting such cultivation.

The international drug control system, as set up in the 1961 Convention and 1971 Convention, establishes that the World Health Organization (WHO) may make recommendations regarding the scheduling of new or already Scheduled substances. For such recommendations to result in the amendment of a Schedule, they must be approved by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). The WHO, through its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD), has conducted a critical review of the potential health risks and benefits of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. At its 41st meeting, the Committee approved a set of recommendations that were communicated by the Director General of the WHO to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in January 2019. In March 2019 at its sixty-second session, the CND decided to postpone the consideration of the recommendations. In March 2020 at the sixty-third session, and following the consideration of the matter during the 2019 to 2020 intersessional period of the CND, Member States agreed to postpone the voting on the WHO recommendations to the reconvened sixty-third session of the CND in December 2020.

2- WHO recommendations

  

Recommendation 5.1: The Committee recommended that cannabis and cannabis resin be deleted from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Current status:

Schedule I and IV of 1961 Convention.

Rationale of WHO recommendation:

Cannabis and cannabis resin are not liable to produce ill-effects similar to those of other substances that are in Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention.

Control and reporting implications:

If the above recommendation is endorsed by the CND, control measures at the international level will not change. Cannabis and cannabis resin would continue to be subject to Schedule I control measures. The reporting requirements for Governments under the provisions of the 1961 Convention would not change. Estimates and statistics are mandatory for all substances in Schedule I and Governments would continue to be required to submit these to the INCB. The INCB would be in a position to monitor the use of these substances and anticipate future increases in their demand (through estimates) and analyse production, utilization and consumption and monitor potential diversion (through reported statistics).

The deletion of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV would affect only the possible implementation of stricter control measures at the national level, which are described in article 2, paragraph 5 of the 1961 Convention. However, article 39 of the 1961 Convention foresees that State parties may adopt stricter control measures than those required by the Convention if they deem it necessary or desirable for the protection of the public health or welfare.

Recommendation 5.2.1: The Committee recommended that dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) should be added to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

Recommendation 5.2.2: The Committee recommended the deletion of dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) from the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Schedule II, subject to the Commission’s adoption of the recommendation to add dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Current status:

Schedule II of 1971 Convention.

Rationale of WHO recommendation:

delta-9-THC was not known to be the main psychoactive compound in cannabis at the time of the scheduling of substances under the 1961 Convention and was later placed in Schedule II of the 1971 Convention. The recommendation to move dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-THC) to the 1961 Convention was meant to facilitate the efficient administration of the international drug control system since it is not advisable to place a substance under more than one convention. [1] Placing dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-THC) under the same Convention and in the same Schedule as cannabis – Schedule I of the 1961 Convention – would facilitate implementation of the control measures and reporting to the INCB by Member States.

Control and reporting implications:

Endorsement of the recommendation by the CND would result in some changes in the control measures applicable to dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-THC). Instead of assessments, Governments would be required to submit estimates according to article 19 of the 1961 Convention. While assessments are voluntary control measures for psychotropic substances adopted by Governments pursuant to Economic and Social (ECOSOC) resolutions 1981/7, 1986/8 and 1991/44, do not need an endorsement by INCB, and are to submitted at least once every three years, States Parties to the 1961 Convention are obligated to submit annual estimates which are subjected to confirmation by the INCB.

If cannabis and its active principles were to be placed under the control of the same Convention, in this case, the 1961 Convention, it would facilitate the control and reporting as the same set of control measures would apply to cannabis, cannabis resin, dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-THC) as well as to tetrahydrocannabinol and its stereoisomers (see also next recommendation). This would facilitate the implementation of control measures by the competent national authorities and the work of the INCB in monitoring of the global situation and in providing Governments with a comprehensive overview of the global production, consumption and trade of cannabis and its active components. However, a resource burden can be foreseen for the INCB secretariat and, most importantly, for Governments’ competent national authorities in order to meet the higher compliance standards, control measures and reporting obligations of the 1961 Convention.

Moving a substance from the 1961 Convention to the 1971 Convention would also affect the control measures applicable to preparations containing such substance. The 1961 Convention defines preparations as “mixture, solid or liquid, containing a drug”,[2] and states that preparations are subjected to the same control of measures as the drugs they contain (art. 2 para. 3). As explained by the Commentary to the 1961 Convention, if a preparation contains drugs from different Schedules, the preparation should be controlled by the control measures applicable to the drug in the more demanding Schedule. For example, if a preparation contains a substance listed in Schedule I and another one listed in Schedule II, the preparation would be controlled under Schedule I. [3]

Preparations in Schedule III are subject to a less strict regime. Article 2 paragraph 4 of the 1961 Convention explains that, while Schedule III preparations are subject to the same measures of control as preparations containing drugs in Schedule II, they are exempted from certain measures of control. For instance, Schedule III preparations do not require Government authorization for export and import and estimates and statistics should only include the quantities of drugs used in the manufacture of such preparations.

Preparations under the 1971 Convention are regarded similarly to preparations under the 1961 Convention since preparations are subject to the same measures of control as the psychotropic substance which they contain, and, if they contain more than one substance the preparation will be regulated by the measures of control provided in the more stringent Schedule [4].

Additionally, article 3 paragraph 2 of the 1971 Convention, allows Parties to unilaterally exempt preparations from certain measures of control (art. 3, para. 3 enumerates the requirements that cannot be neglected) if the preparations in question present no risk of abuse and the substance cannot be recovered by readily applicable means in a quantity liable to abuse so that the preparation does not pose a risk to public health and does not give rise to social problems.

Recommendation 5.3.1: The Committee recommended that tetrahydrocannabinol (understood to refer to the six isomers currently listed in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances) be added to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, subject to the Commission’s adoption of the recommendation to add dronabinol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in Schedule I.

Recommendation 5.3.2: The Committee recommended that tetrahydrocannabinol (understood to refer to the six isomers currently listed in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances) be deleted from the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, subject to the Commission’s adoption of the recommendation to add tetrahydrocannabinol to Schedule I of the1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Current status:

Schedule I of 1971 Convention.

Rationale of WHO recommendation:

Isomers of THC are not easily differentiated from delta– 9-THC, placing them in the 1961 Convention will facilitate international control.

Control and reporting implications:

Similar to the implications of recommendations 5.2.1 and 5.2.2, the endorsement of recommendations 5.3.1 and 5.3.2 by the CND would result in a number of additional control measures required for States under the 1961 Convention. One of these requirements will be that Governments will have to submit estimates for these isomers. With the addition of these substances to the 1961 Convention, the control of cannabis and its active principles will be in one Schedule, Schedule I of the 1961 Convention and, as mentioned earlier, it should facilitate the implementation of control requirements by Governments and reporting to the INCB.

Recommendation 5.4 The Committee recommended deleting extracts and tinctures of cannabis from Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Current Status:

Schedules I and IV of the 1961 Convention.

Rationale of WHO recommendation:

The 1961 Convention may cover all products that are “extracts and tinctures” of cannabis as “preparations” of cannabis and, if the Committee’s recommendation to move dronabinol to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention was adopted, as “preparations” of dronabinol and its stereoisomers.

Control and reporting implications:

As mentioned in the context of the analysis of recommendation 5.2, the 1961 Convention defines preparations as “mixture, solid or liquid, containing a drug”,[5] and states that preparations are subjected to the same control of measures as the drugs they contain (art. 2 para. 3). The Commentary to the 1961 Convention explains that drugs are mostly used “in form of their salts and particularly of ‘preparations’, i.e. of mixtures which contain other substances in addition to the drugs or their salts.”[6] The Commentary clarifies further that if a preparation contains drugs from different Schedules, the preparation should be controlled by the control measures applicable to the drug in the more demanding Schedule. For example, if a preparation contains a substance listed in Schedule I and another one listed in Schedule II, the preparation would be controlled under Schedule I. [7]

In response to questions during the intersessional meetings WHO reiterated the position of the ECDD that “preparations”, as defined in the 1961 Convention, may cover all “extracts and tinctures” of cannabis. In this sense, the presence of extracts and tinctures of cannabis in Schedule I could be considered a repetition that recommendation 5.4 is aiming to correct. The adoption of this recommendation is expected to have no impact on the control and/or reporting obligations of Member States.

Recommendation 5.5. The Committee recommended that a footnote be added to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to read: “Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol and not more than 0.2 per cent of delta-9-THC are not under international control”.

Current status:

CBD is not specifically listed in the Schedules of the 1961 Convention or the 1971 Convention or listed in the Tables of the 1988 Convention. However, Cannabidiol that is produced from an extract of cannabis is included in the 1961 Convention.

Rationale of WHO recommendation:

There is no evidence that CBD as a substance is liable to similar abuse or leads to similar ill-effects to substances in the 1961 or 1971 Conventions such as cannabis or delta-9-THC. CBD has been found to be generally well tolerated, with a good safety profile and with limited adverse effects. Therapeutic applications of CBD are being researched for a variety of clinical uses.

Control and reporting implications:

Regarding the impact of recommendation 5.5 on control requirements, monitoring and reporting obligations of Member States, the main issue to consider relates to its practical implementation at the national level. In most countries, chemical analysis down to the threshold indicated in the recommendation may not be possible because of lack of access to appropriate identification techniques. In those countries where chemical analysis to the required accuracy of 0.2 per cent of delta-9-THC is possible, it might not be feasible, or considered to be a good use of resources. Member States may wish to consult with the UNODC Laboratory to obtain further details on methods of analysis and the practical implications regarding this recommendation.

In addition, this recommendation, if approved, would give rise to an important question on the control of cannabis cultivated for the extraction of CBD to be used for preparations described in the recommendation.

According to article 28 of the 1961 Convention, States Parties may permit the cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. Parties that permit such cultivation have an obligation to establish control measures in accordance with the Convention. In addition, the 1961 Convention limits the cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes to fibre and seed.

The cultivation of cannabis for the extraction of CBD would need to be monitored under the provisions of the 1961 Convention because it does not meet the definition of “industrial purposes” (fibre and seed) of article 28 paragraph 2. Also, cannabis cultivated for the extraction of CBD would have some delta-9-THC content, however small, and this would have to be controlled in accordance with its scheduling. What happens to the delta-9-THC needs to be accounted for and reported to the INCB. For example, if it is destroyed or if is diluted (less than 0.2 per cent) in preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol.

There is no threshold in the 1961 Convention on the percentage of cannabinoids that could be present in the plant. However, countries have been using varieties of cannabis plants containing not more than 0.2-0.3 per cent of delta-9-THC as the threshold for permitting the cultivation of the cannabis plant “for industrial purposes” under the exemption provided in article 28 of the 1961 Convention. The verification that each plant is not above the threshold established would require some control measures to ensure that internationally controlled substances are not diverted and abused. As a way of reference, the INCB has requested countries cultivating opium poppy rich in noscapine (an alkaloid not under international control) to report cultivation of that variety because of the presence of morphine content in that variety.

Additional issues arise regarding the control of the personal cultivation of cannabis plants. The INCB has repeatedly stated that personal cultivation of cannabis does not allow Governments to exercise the supervision required by the 1961 Convention.

Although cannabis (the flowering or fruiting top of the cannabis plant) is where the cannabinoids are concentrated, other parts of the cannabis plant that may be used for the extraction of delta-9-THC are also under international control. Article 1 (b) states that the leaves when not accompanied by the tops are excluded from the definition of cannabis. The drafters of the 1961 Convention considered that quantity of psychoactive substances in the cannabis leaves was limited and, as explained in the Commentary on the 1961 Convention, leaves were not suitable for smoking.[8] However, article 28 paragraph 3 of the 1961 Convention ascribes an obligation to State parties to “adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in, the leaves of the cannabis plant.” Therefore, whilst the provisions of the 1961 Convention concerning cannabis do not apply to the leaves, Member States are required to adopt the necessary measures to prevent the misuse of the leaves. This requirement includes the cultivation of cannabis plant rich in CBD and the use of the leaves if delta-9-THC is present.

Recommendation 5.6. The Committee recommended that preparations containing delta-9- tetrahydrocannabidiol (dronabinol), produced either by chemical synthesis or as a preparation of cannabis, that are compounded as pharmaceutical preparations with one or more other ingredients and in such a way that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (dronabinol) cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health, be added to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Current status:

Schedule II of 1971 Convention, and Schedules I and IV of 1961 Convention as preparation of cannabis.

Rationale of WHO recommendation:

delta-9-THC-containing medicines are not associated with problems of abuse and dependence and they are not diverted for the purpose of non- medical use. They are not liable to be abused when taken orally.

Control and reporting implications:

It is not clear to which kind of preparations the recommendation would apply. There is a need for a more specific definition of the preparations in question. The term “compounded pharmaceutical preparations” is applicable to a large number of preparations. The expression “readily available means” also needs further specification. The 1961 Convention states that if the drug in the preparation “is not readily recoverable”, the CND may, in accordance with the recommendation of the World Health Organization, add that preparation to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention. Also, preparations that are included in the Schedule III of the 1961 Convention are described in the Yellow List of narcotics under international control with specific amount per per dosage unit or with concentration of not more than specific per cent in undivided preparations. Recommendation 5.6 does not provide this crucial information for the determination of the status of a preparation.

If the recommendation is endorsed by the CND, the inclusion of these substances in Schedule III would eliminate the need for some measures of control, such as those applicable to the international trade of these preparations. Only statistics and estimates on the quantity of delta-9-THC used in the manufacture of Schedule III preparations should be furnished to the INCB and no authorization would be required for their export and import. However, the exemption from these control measures would apply only to those specific preparations included in Schedule III. Manufacture of delta-9-THC would still need to be monitored and governments would have to report statistics on its utilization for Schedule III preparations. This would be similar to the control applied to codeine utilised for Schedule III preparations (cough suppressants).

The endorsement by the CND of the WHO recommendations 5.5 and 5.6 would reduce control measures over preparations containing dronabinol and its stereoisomers (delta-9-THC) and cannabidiol.

3- Challenges and opportunities for the compliance by Member States in relation to the control measures and reporting obligations arising from endorsement by the CND of the WHO recommendations

  

As outlined above the recommendations by WHO provides the opportunity to clarify and streamline the control requirements applicable to cannabis and cannabis-related substances:

  • The scheduling of specific cannabinoids will help considerably the monitoring of the production, trade and consumption of preparations derived from cannabis.
  • The scheduling of cannabis and all cannabis-related substances under the 1961 Convention will standardize the control requirements applicable making it easier for competent national authorities to monitor and report the information to INCB.
  • Possible challenges may arise in terms of the capacity of Member States to comply with the control requirements and reporting obligations of the 1961 Convention from the endorsement by the CND of the WHO scheduling recommendations
  • While the WHO recommendations are specifying the different control requirements to be applied to cannabis and cannabis-related substances, there is the need to establish accurate definitions to ensure a shared understanding among Member States and avoid discrepancies in the interpretation of the control requirements.
  • There is a need to improve the knowledge of the composition of the different cannabis preparations available to patients. Lack of such knowledges limits the ability of competent national authorities to furnish accurate estimates and statistics on cannabis to the INCB.
  • In general, limited technical knowledge, lack of clear understanding of the recommendations and of their implications by competent national authorities present potential challenges for Member States in the implementation of the WHO scheduling recommendations should they be approved by the CND.
  • Some Member States might not have the capacity to ensure the implementation of the control requirements under the new scheduling due to lack of resources and/or technical capacity. This might be the case for recommendations 5.2 and 5.3 due to the possible financial and administrative burden for competent national authorities in complying with the new control measures and other requirements under the provisions of the 1961 Convention.
  • Medical and/or forensic services in some Member States may not have the technology or human resources to ensure compliance with some of the recommendations. This might apply to recommendations 5.5 and 5.6 that require to identify and control the precise composition of the preparations.
  • National legislation and regulations for the cultivation of cannabis would need to be reviewed and changed in order to differentiate cultivation for the extraction of CBD and or delta-9-THC and for industrial purposes as described in the 1961 Convention. 

 

The issue remains as to how Member States should report to the INCB on the cultivation, production, manufacture and consumption of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. Countries have expressed a strong commitment to monitor and control of substances in line with the international drug control conventions. As mentioned, this requires a shared understanding of the applicable control requirements for cannabis and cannabis-related substances, a consistent approach towards imports and exports and the presence of reliable and uniform conversion factors to allow for a structured and unified monitoring system. For example, some countries have not been reporting to the INCB information on the manufacture and trade of preparations containing CBD because it is not explicitly scheduled. This has led to trade discrepancies, as most importing and exporting countries do report to the INCB on such trade. Similarly, some countries believe that there is no obligation to have estimates for or report on the cultivation of cannabis plant rich in CBD.

As a consequence of this lack of common understanding on the interpretation of the control measures applicable to cannabis under the international drug control system, governments are less capable of controlling the availability and the quality of cannabis and cannabis-related products that patients have access to. The data available to INCB on cannabis is incomplete and the INCB has limited capacity to analyse the balance between supply and demand of cannabis and cannabis raw material for medical and scientific purposes. The risk of diversion and misuse of cannabis and cannabis related products is heightened.

In order to improve the ability of INCB to support Member States in the implementation of control measures for cannabis and cannabis-related substances in ensuring the availability of cannabis and cannabis related products for medical and scientific purposes, Member States may consider, in line with resolution 51/9 (on the demand for and supply of opiates), requesting the INCB in cooperation with Governments to adjust global production of cannabis raw materials to a level corresponding to actual licit requirements and to avoid creating imbalances between the licit supply of and demand for cannabis and cannabis-related substances for medical and scientific purposes.

 


Footnotes:

[1] WHO EXECUTIVE BOARD “Guidance on the WHO review of psychoactive substances for international control: proposed revision” EB125/6.

[2] Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, Article 1, para.1, subparagraph (s). The Commentary on the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, page 58 para. 1 explains further: “Drugs are mostly not used in their pure state for medical purposes, but rather in form of their salts and particularly of ‘preparations’, i.e. of mixtures which contain other substances in addition to the drugs or their salts.”

[3] Commentary on the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. Page 58, para. 1. United Nations, New York, 1973.

[4] Preparations under the 1971 Convention, and as explained by the Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, State Parties are required to furnish statistics to the INCB different from those dealing with the psychotropic substances which the preparation contains. Hence, the INCB theoretically could require State Parties to furnish statistics on the quantities of preparations held in stock by manufacturers, exported and imported, in addition to the data on psychotropic substances which they contain. However, as the Commentary explains, “the Board does not need that statistical information on the preparations distinct from the information on the basic psychotropic substance which they contain”, and “has used that authority to prescribe that whatever the form of the psychotropic substance may be, the statistical data concerning them should represent the weight of each psychotropic substance, excluding the weight of any non-psychotropic substance which may be combined or mixed with it.” The difference between the two conventions is in this way “in practice without any importance”. Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, pages 113-114. United Nations, New York, 1976.

[5] Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, Article 1, para.1, subparagraph (s).

[6] Commentary on the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, page 58 para. 1. United Nations, New York, 1973.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The commentary goes on to mention that “it has, however, been found that marihuana cigarettes seized from the illicit traffic in fact contain leaves.” Commentary on the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, page 3 para. 2. United Nations, New York, 1973.

 

[Chair] Intersessional considerations – Follow up to CND Decision 63/14 (May 2020)

Intersessional considerations of the WHO recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances – Follow up to CND Decision 63/14

Non-Paper prepared by the Chair with assistance of the Secretariat (revised version following the silence procedure, deadline 19 May 2020)

Introduction

At the 63rd session, the Commission recalled its mandate to vote on scheduling recommendations as laid out in the international drug control conventions and decided to continue during its current sixty-third session the consideration of the recommendations of the World Health Organization on cannabis and cannabis-related substances, bearing in mind their complexity, in order to clarify the implications and consequences of, as well as the reasoning for these recommendations, and decided to vote at its reconvened sixty-third session in December 2020, in order to preserve the integrity of the international scheduling system (Decision 63/14).

Via a special message sent on 24 March 2020 and the reminder circulated on 30 March 2020, the Chair invited Member States to submit specific issues, which they would like to discuss under each recommendation, to structure the considerations in an effective and efficient manner.

The first version of the Chair’s proposal was shared with the Members of the Extended Bureau on Friday 24 April and the Chairs of the Regional Groups were requested to circulate the proposal among their respective membership and to communicate any feedback received to the Chair during the 9th Extended Bureau Meeting, held on Thursday, 30 April 2020. A revised version was circulated on 6 May 2020 via special message with a silence procedure until 14 May 2020. At the request of several delegations, the silence procedure was extended until 19 May 2020, 3 PM. The additional comments and requests for clarification received within the extended deadline are reflected in the present version. This revised version attempts to present a workable way forward in the light of comments received before and during that Extended Bureau Meeting.

Based on the comments received, the Chair would like to propose the course of action described in this paper. The goal of the suggested structure for the intersessional consultations is to address the open questions with regard to the implications and consequences of, as well as the reasoning for the recommendations and enable an informed decision at the 63rd reconvened session in December 2020 in implementation of the Commission’s decision 63/14. Therefore, the consultations should not repeat the process of the fourth and fifth intersessional meeting of the 62nd session held on 24 June and 23 September 2019 respectively, that were devoted to the clarification of medical and scientific questions with the World Health Organization, but rather the focus of the consultations should be on the exchange of views among Member States regarding, implications arising from economic, social, legal, administrative and other factors and the ways of addressing them if any of these recommendations are adopted.

I. Meetings

As a number of Member States stressed in their comments, the participation of subject-matter experts is highly desirable for a focused and rich discussion. Therefore, the structure of the meetings is meant to enable the participation of experts from capitals. It is suggested that three topical meetings of two days (with the possibility of extension to three days) be conducted, each focusing on one to three recommendations, followed by an intersessional meeting to recapitulate the consultations and to discuss the voting procedure for the reconvened session [1].

Depending on developments of the health crisis and related travel restrictions, all or at least the first meeting should be held virtually. This will allow for participation of experts based anywhere in the world and ensure that all Member States are in a position to share their perspectives regarding the implications arising from these recommendations. In the case of (partially) virtual meetings, the Secretariat will make every effort to take into account time differences. Exact timing and IT requirements will be communicated well in advance to enable experts in capital to prepare accordingly.

Based on the nature of the recommendations, their interlinkages, as well as the expertise required for the discussion, it is recommended to focus the first meeting on recommendations 5.4 and 5.5. The second meeting would be devoted to the discussion of recommendations 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1, 5.3.2 and 5.6 and the third one to the consultations on recommendation 5.1.

Considering the full calendar of meetings of the Vienna-based organizations, as well as the unclear future developments with regard to COVID-19, and in line with the guidance received from the President of the Economic and Social Council to apply alternative working methods, such as virtual meetings, instead of simply postponing all meetings, the following schedule of meetings is proposed, before the voting foreseen to take place during the reconvened 63rd session in early December 2020 [2]:

1ST TOPICAL MEETING Recommendations 5.4 and 5.5 24-25 June 2020
2ND TOPICAL MEETING Recommendations 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6 [3] 24-25 August 2020 (possibility to extend to 26 August 2020)
3RD TOPICAL MEETING Recommendation 5.1 16-17 Septembre 2020
INTERSESSIONAL MEETING All recommendations 18 Septembre 2020

II. Participation

Even though only Commission members will vote on the recommendations, due to the high interest in the issue, the three topical meetings would be open to all Member States [4]. It is recommended that delegations include experts with substantive knowledge on economic, social, legal and administrative matters to allow for in-depth discussions. The invitation would also be extended to the World Health Organization and the International Narcotics Control Board. Other relevant intergovernmental organizations with a mandate that is of particular relevance for specific recommendations, will be invited to the relevant topical meeting(s), upon the request by Member States [5].

The intersessional meeting (18 September) would also be open to all interested stakeholders, including intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations with ECOSOC status.

The Secretariat is working with Member States to ensure (virtual) simultaneous interpretation services for these meetings. As a number of countries have stressed the importance of interpretation in order for their national experts to participate, necessary resources will need to be provided to the Secretariat so that the proposed meetings can benefit from simultaneous interpretation [6].

III. Conduct of the meetings

The three topical meetings will focus on the exchange among Member States on economic, social, legal, administrative and other factors relating to the recommendations in the light of discussions in expert meetings. During the intersessional meeting, Member States will have the opportunity to recapitulate relevant arguments and sum up their positions and, in addition, other stakeholders may share their views.

In order to facilitate the dialogue, it is suggested that based on the contributions received from Member States in response to the call made in the Special Message of 24 March, the Secretariat will prepare a list with issues for consideration for each recommendation, to be shared with participants at least two weeks prior to the respective topical meeting. The list of issues will be merely illustrative and supposed to facilitate the discussion, not limiting the scope of issues that States may wish to raise. At the beginning of each topical meeting, the Secretariat will give a short introduction, referring to these issues for consideration.

Then, experts in the subject matter [7] whose name and function have been indicated beforehand by their respective country to the Secretariat, will be given the floor to make short introductory (kick-off) presentations [8]. These presentations should be no longer than five minutes.

This would be followed by an interactive discussion among the participants guided by the Chair. Representatives of the World Health Organization would be present during the discussion, in case any medical or scientific question arises. The International Narcotics Control Board and the UNODC would also be represented, but the focus of the discussion is on the exchange of views among Member States’ experts.

If technically possible, the topical meetings would be recorded and made available on the secure website for Member States, for reference purposes. Additionally, to ensure that all Member States have ample opportunity to express their views (even if they decide not to participate in these meetings), it will be possible for Member States to make written submissions, which will be posted on the secure website for Member States. A template is being made available by the Secretariat (attached). Upon request by a Member State, the Secretariat will also publish on the secure website documents submitted by this Member State beforehand. The topical meetings and the intersessional meeting will be summarized in a Chair’s summary. The Chair’s summary will be of a procedural nature, as substantive contributions by Member States can be made available in the form of written submissions posted on the secure website.

 


  

Footnotes:

  1. The provisional agenda of the intersessional meeting on 18 September 2020 will be set shorter to that date.
  2. As explained by the Chief of Conference Management Services during the virtual FINGOV briefing held on 15 May 2020, the calendar of meetings is very full and it is not possible to provide to delegations alternative sets of dates to choose from. In particular in the light of the Secretariat’s ongoing efforts to try to secure interpretation into the six official languages for the meeting dates, the proposed schedule is the most optimum and practical way of conducting the Commission’s work on this issue.
  3. INCB clarified that they expect to have their impact assessment of the recommendations, which a number of countries would like to be available before consideration of recommendations 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6 , ready by mid- June, hence, even before the first topical meeting (and well ahead of the consideration of recommendations 5.2, 5.3 and 5.6, scheduled for the second topical meeting – to be held at the end of August).
  4. There will be no limitation on the number of participants per Member States. In person meetings will have to comply with applicable restrictions. In case of (partially) virtual meetings, the overall number of participants might be limited by the technical capacity of the virtual platform.
  5. Participation in this context means that the requesting Member States would have to provide the details of an expert within that organization, who would then be invited as a guest to give a presentation. These “guest presenters” would only join for the time of their presentation and would not participate in the rest of the topical meeting.
  6. During the virtual FINGOV briefing on 15 May 2020, the chief of conference management services clarified not to be in a position to repurpose any funding in order to provide interpretation for the topical meetings.
  7. It is in the discretion of Member States, whom they nominate as expert, and these experts will be part of the national delegation. It is recommended that experts have substantive knowledge on matters to be discussed in the respective topical meeting.
  8. Given that there was no agreement to have a panel discussion with panellists nominated through the regional groups, the purpose of the proposal is to allow participating experts (within Member States’ delegations) who have particular knowledge regarding a specific recommendation to give a presentation at the beginning of the meeting in order to ensure a focused exchange. Member States that have such an expert are invited to inform the Secretariat of the name of their expert in advance, so that the Chair can invite them to speak at the beginning. There will be no limitation on the number of expert presentations, and this would of course not preclude any other delegation from making a statement or intervening later during the discussion.
[Chair] Follow-up mechanism proposed in March 2020

“In the inter-sessional period, I want to continue informal consultations. Depending upon the availability of resources within the Secretariat (if the countries provide us with some extra-budgetary resources), we want to hold some open-ended informal consultations, where legal experts and domestic experts from Member States come, between now and December – maybe two meetings, possibly three meetings. There is a debate and on what are actually the implications, how is its application can be addressed.

WHO and INCB should also be part of that debate, so that there is a better clarity as memberships have continued to say that they are not really clear about the implications of some of these recommendations.

So I hope that when we go into December, more and more States have better clarity of what the implications are how to work on the recommendations and what measures they can take within their own domestic systems to address and to deal with any consequences of these recommendations.”

Consensus of the International Community in March 2020

A consensus among all countries party to the International Drug Control Conventions (IDCC) was found late February 2020 to postpone (again) the voting of the recommendations to the reconvened 63rd session of the Commission on narcotic drugs, taking place from December 3rd to 4th, 2020 in Vienna, Austria.

On Wednesday, March 4th, 2020, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs finally adopted the decision to postpone the vote. The decision will be published in April (in E/2020/28 and E/CN.7/2020/15). The decision reads: The Commission on Narcotic Drugs recalls its mandate to vote on scheduling recommendations as laid out in the international drug control conventions and decides to continue during its current sixty-third session the consideration of the recommendations of the World Health Organization on cannabis and cannabis-related substances, bearing in mind their complexity, in order to clarify the implications and consequences of, as well as the reasoning for, these recommendations, and decides to vote at its reconvened sixty-third session in December 2020, in order to preserve the integrity of the international scheduling system.

In his position of Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, on behalf of the Commission, ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan from Pakistan introduced the draft decision by which the Commission recalls its mandate to vote on scheduling recommendations as laid out in the IDCC and “decide to continue during its current sixty-third session the consideration of the recommendations of WHO on cannabis and cannabis-related substances, bearing in mind their complexity, in order to clarify the implications and consequences of, as well as the reasoning for, those recommendations, and would decide to vote at its reconvened sixty-third session, in December 2020, in order to preserve the integrity of the international scheduling system.” The Chair precised that “It is the common understanding of the Commission members that this draft decision implies that all of the aforementioned recommendations are referred to the 63rd reconvened session for voting, thereby it is understood that the wording ‘voting’ does not preclude consensus. Further with regard to the wording ‘reasoning for these recommendations’, it is important to note that medical and scientific properties of the substances under consideration are under the mandate of WHO but there can be other administrative, social, political and legal factors in the assessment of the Member States. Therefore I have an intention to continue these consultative process in between the intersession period, with a view to have implementation of this decision in the reconvened session of the 63rd session to be held in December.”

The report of the 63rd Commission on narcotic drugs explains that:

“A number of speakers made statements following the adoption by the Commission of its decisions on the scheduling of substances.

Some speakers welcomed the decisions taken by the Commission to place the above-mentioned new psychoactive substances and precursors under international
control and expressed their gratitude and support to WHO, UNODC and INCB for ensuring international control of the most harmful substances.

Several speakers expressed concern about the increasing non-medical use of tramadol and the insufficiency of national control measures and requested Member
States to collect and share information with the international community in order to enable WHO to consider recommending tramadol for international scheduling. One speaker noted that kratom posed an increasing threat in his country.

Several speakers welcomed the decision taken by the Commission to postpone the voting on the scheduling recommendations of WHO on cannabis and
cannabis-related substances until the reconvened sixty-third session of the Commission, to be held in December 2020, as additional time was needed for well-informed, evidence-based decisions. Other speakers indicated that they would have been ready to vote during the present session but respected the need of some Member States for further consideration, and they underlined that voting had to take place in December 2020 in order to ensure the integrity of the scheduling system.

Several speakers highlighted that the postponement would allow for a more in-depth analysis of the recommendations with regard to economic, social, legal,
administrative and other factors, which States might consider relevant. It was highlighted that during the consideration of the matter, the mandate of WHO under the 1961 Convention and 1971 Convention to evaluate the scientific and medical properties of substances had to be respected. Several speakers recommended that Member States make optimal use of the intersessional period to evaluate the impact of the recommendations at the national level, involving national experts and, as appropriate, UNODC, INCB, WHO and other relevant stakeholders.

Several speakers underlined that WHO, recognizing the harmful effects of cannabis, had recommended retaining cannabis in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention,
which entailed the application of the full control regime under the Convention.”

What the report fails to acknowledge, however, is that several countries specifically commended and greeted the WHO for providing a science-based assessment and guidance for Member States with these recommendations.

 

Countries’ positions will continue to be updated below.

Elements transmitted by the "Group of 77 and China"

March 2nd, 2020: “The Group of 77 and China would like to express its appreciation for the commendable efforts of [CND Chair] in finding a way forward through informal consultations with Member States on the WHO recommendations, on the changes in the scope of control of substances of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. The Group calls upon all States to duly consider the potential social, economic, administrative, legal and other implications of WHO’s recommendations on control of cannabis and cannabis-related substances, where applicable.”

Elements transmitted by the Asia-Pacific Group at the United Nations

March 2nd, 2020: “This year Member States also experience the complexity in dealing with one particular issue regarding the world drug problem: WHO recommendations on scheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. The Group would be seriously remiss if we fail to recognize the tireless efforts of the Chair, Ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan, in trying to bridge the differences among Member States. The Group expresses our appreciation towards his dedication to preserve the Vienna spirit of consensus. The Group reiterates that, the recommendations must be carefully and responsibly considered for the benefit of international community and society as a whole without unnecessary delay, considering that cannabis is the most abused drug in the world and these recommendations could have significant economic, social, legal and administrative impacts on society. In this regard, the Group supports the Chair’s efforts on further consultation and deliberation, with a view to achieving consensual solution and evidence-based decision.”

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Timeline

III.2007 CND requests an update on THC (CND decision 50/2) >>> III.2009 CND requests an update on cannabis (CND resolution 52/5) >>> XI.2016 Launch of the Review process by WHO (E/CN.7/2016/CRP.13) >>> II.2019 Publication of the results of the Reviews by WHO (Circular Letter) >>> XII.2016 First Delay by the CND (CND decision 62/14) >>> VI.2019 Intersessional CND meeting (public) #1 >>> IX.2019 Intersessional CND meeting (public) #2 >>> XI.2019 Intersessional CND meeting (public) #3 >>> III.2020 Second Delay by the CND (CND decision 63/14) >>> VI.2020 First Topical CND meeting (closed) >>> VIII.2020 Second Topical CND meeting (closed) >>> IX.2020 Third Topical CND meeting (closed) >>> IX.2020 Intersessional CND meeting (public) #4 >>> XII.2020 Vote, or other action taken, on the recommendations.

OFFICIAL DOCUMENTATION

E/CN.7/2020/14

Changes in the scope of control of substances: proposed scheduling recommendations by the World Health Organization on cannabis and cannabis-related substances.

Memo for the vote.

E/CN.7/2020/CRP.9

Changes in the scope of control of substances: proposed scheduling recommendations by the World Health Organization on cannabis and cannabis-related substances.

Countries comments.

E/CN.7/2020/CRP.4

Compilation of all questions and answers on the WHO recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances raised during the fourth and fifth intersessional meeting of the Commission at its sixty-second session.

WHO ECDD, 41st report

WHO ECDD, 40th report

WHO ECDD, 39th report

Brochure on the CND

Information about the United nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

E/5975/Rev.1

Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council.

Brochure on Scheduling

Brochure on the scheduling functions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

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