The United Nations Commission for Narcotic Drugs, based in Vienna, Austria, voted to remove cannabis for medical use from its Schedule IV status, the strictest drug classification where dangerous drugs like heroin are listed.
The vote comes after the World Health Organization submitted a number of recommendations to the commission regarding cannabis, all of which were rejected except for the Schedule IV removal, according to Kyle Jaeger at Marijuana Moment. The WHO first issued their recommendations to change the status of cannabis last year in 2019.
Dirk Heitepriem, vice president at Canopy Growth, told the New York Times the vote is a huge step forward. “We hope this will empower more countries to create frameworks which allow patients in need to get access to treatment,” says Heitepriem.
The much-delayed vote was close, with 27 in favor and 25 against, and Ukraine abstaining, but support from the United States was pivotal in getting it passed. Still though, the vote is largely symbolic – it doesn’t necessarily clear the way for countries to start legalizing cannabis and governments can still classify cannabis how they see fit.
The vote does, however, provide an important foot-in-the-door moment for cannabis advocates and businesses around the world. The commission’s decision to remove cannabis from Schedule IV means that the UN recognizes cannabis as an effective medicine, opening the door to future progress on the international level and possibly opening research opportunities along the way.