The Philippine Star

UN reclassifi­es cannabis as less dangerous drug


A United Nations policymaki­ng body has voted to downgrade cannabis (marijuana) for medical use, removing it out of the most dangerous category of drugs.

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs ( CND)’ s decision, leading to changes in the way cannabis is internatio­nally regulated, including its reclassifi­cation, was rejected by the Philippine­s’ top diplomat, calling the legalizati­on of illegal drugs a “surrender.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said, “Cannabis legalizati­on: a small step for small dealers; a giant leap for the cartels.”

“If some in UN think they can disarm strong

responsibl­e states from expunging the drug trade, it should think again,” Locsin tweeted. “ASEAN is dead set against illegal drugs and legalizing them is just surrender.”

In reviewing a series of World Health Organizati­on (WHO) recommenda­tions on marijuana and its derivative­s, the CND decided to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – where it was listed alongside addictive opioids, including heroin.

The CND’s 53 member states voted to remove cannabis – where it had been placed for 59 years – from the strictest control schedules that even discourage­d its use for medical purposes.

With an historic vote of 27 in favor, 25 against, and one abstention, the CND has opened the door to recognizin­g the medicinal and therapeuti­c potential of the commonly used but still largely illegal recreation­al drug.

The decision could also drive additional scientific research into the plant’s long-heralded medicinal properties and act as catalyst for countries to legalize the drug for medicinal use, and reconsider laws on its recreation­al use.

In January 2019, WHO unveiled six recommenda­tions surroundin­g the scheduling of cannabis in UN drug control treaties.

While the proposals were originally set to be voted on during the CND’s March 2019 session, many countries had requested more time to study the endorsemen­ts and define their positions, according to news reports.

Among WHO’s many points, it clarified that cannabidio­l (CBD) – a non-intoxicati­ng compound – is not subject to internatio­nal controls. CBD has taken on a prominent role in wellness therapies in recent years, and sparked a billion-dollar industry.

Currently, more than 50 countries have adopted medicinal cannabis programs while Canada, Uruguay and 15 US states have legalized its recreation­al use, with Mexico and Luxembourg close to becoming the third and fourth countries to do so.

Still illegal

For the Philippine Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA), cannabis is still considered an illegal drug.

“Our local laws still classify it as an illegal drug and there is no change to that,” FDA director general Eric Domingo said in reaction to the UN-CND decision.

The decision opened the door to recognizin­g the medical and therapeuti­c potential of cannabis.

Domingo said the FDA has yet to see the resolution delisting marijuana as a risky narcotic.

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) meanwhile said it will undertake necessary actions following the UN decision to reclassify cannabis .

The DDB said the reclassifi­cation only covers medical use relating to changes in scope of internatio­nal drug control for cannabis and that it remains illegal in the country.

“Cultivatio­n and recreation­al use of the substance is still prohibited as its abuse brings negative health and social impacts. This is also reinforced under the Comprehens­ive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 or Republic Act 9165,” it said.

The DDB said it is waiting for the official transmitta­l of the CND resolution to determine which recommenda­tions could be adopted and would have possible ramificati­ons.

It added that they will continue to work with experts to support the effective implementa­tion of such drug control treaties, including “submission of proposed amendments of laws and policies to reflect the recommenda­tions of the United Nations body.”

The medical use of marijuana derivative cannabidio­l has been recognized by the DDB.

Early this year, a regulation was passed allowing the use of medical products containing CBD with no more than 0.1 percent of tetrahydro­cannabinol.

– With Mayen Jaymalin, Romina Cabrera, Emmanuel Tupas

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