Marijuana could soon be reclassified on an international scale.
In 1948, the United Nations (UN) established the World Health Organization (WHO) to serve as its conduit to all things health-related. Now, the agency is recommending that the UN reclassify marijuana to a less restrictive narcotics schedule — a move that could have a huge impact on public health worldwide.
Under the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty that regulates the production and sale of certain drugs, cannabis is listed as a Schedule IV drug. That‘s the most restrictive class, reserved for drugs that have “particularly dangerous properties.”
Earlier this month, the WHO published new recommendations to the UN regarding the classification of marijuana in the medical journal The BMJ. According to the WHO, there’s growing evidence that cannabis has medical applications, and the UN should reschedule the plant to take into account these applications.
The WHO’s proposal to reclassify marijuana could go before the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs as soon as March, at which point 53 countries will have the option of voting on it.
Although a vote to reclassify wouldn’t make cannabis legal everywhere overnight, it would mark a major shift in how political leaders view the drug — which could have a huge impact on the drug’s use for medical purposes.
Scientists have already noted potential uses for cannabis to treat everything from psychosis and epilepsy to heart disease and Alzheimer’s, but researching these links hasn’t been easy given marijuana’s legal status.
If governments decide to revisit their cannabis laws in the wake of a UN reclassification, it might be easier for researchers to gain approval — and funding — for their marijuana-focused studies, meaning we could see a dramatic increase in the number of cannabis-based medical treatments in the future.