The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs has voted to strip cannabis of its classification as a Schedule IV controlled substance, a tier reserved for dangerous and highly addictive substances like heroin. Cannabis will still be considered a controlled substance, but will no longer be classified with other drugs considered both “highly addictive and highly liable for abuse,” as well as “particularly harmful and of extremely limited medical or therapeutic value.”
The reclassification was decided in a 27-25 vote on Wednesday, NPR reported. The narrow vote follows a recommendation the World Health Organization handed down nearly two years ago advising that cannabis be removed from the strict classification as its known health benefits are “not consistent with the criteria for a drug to be placed in Schedule IV.” While the WHO noted cannabis can cause dependency and other adverse effects, the committee argued the drug’s medical and therapeutic values render it an inappropriate candidate for the “most dangerous” classification.
The WHO committee also noted the “limited robust scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis,” suggesting that a reclassification moving the drug off the Schedule IV substance list would provide more opportunities for further research into the drug’s medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
“One of the original reasons for the WHO making these recommendations were to open up the path to research and medical product development,” Conor O’Brien, of the global industry analyst group Prohibition Partners, told NPR. “Today’s results will hopefully encourage much activity in this field which will in the future enable further liberalization of cannabis and patient access.”
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