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SA a lone African voice on the UN cannabis stage

South Africa and Morocco were the only African countries that supported a United Nations vote to deregulate cannabis. Nine other African countries voted against the measure which was narrowly passed by a meeting of the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).  

The 54 member  body voted 28 – 25 (with Ukraine abstaining) to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 drug Convention treaty [1].


United Nations Cannabis Vote, Marijuana News, South Africa Dagga vote

SA’s UN representative Matjila – taking a progressive line


SA voted for all WHO recommendations

Only one of five World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on deregulating cannabis was accepted by the CND, but for African cannabis and hemp producers, it was the most important – Schedule 5.1 . Among the rejected recommendations was one which called for the descheduling of THC.  South Africa was one of the few countries that voted in favour of all recommendations, indicating the country’s increasingly progressive approach to cannabis reform.

Significantly the United States voted for 5.1, as did most European and Latin American countries. Russia was fiercely opposed , saying it considered cannabis a “the most abused drug globally”, while 9 African countries voted ‘no’.

Essentially the move recognizes the therapeutic value of cannabis and no longer considers it as  “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects.”


Attempt to declassify THC as a drug failed

The move to pull cannabis out of Schedule IV was the only cannabis-related initiative to win approval Wednesday, as commission members rejected a handful of other recommendations from the WHO regarding THC and cannabis extracts.

Most of the other cannabis votes were also close – except for a broad rejection of a proposal that would have used a footnote in Schedule IV to declare that preparations containing cannabidiol, or CBD, “are not under international control” as long as they contain less than 0.2% of THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis.

That rejection came despite a plea from the European Medicinal Cannabis Association, which submitted a position paper to the commission titled, “CBD is not a narcotic.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told NPR that the vote in favor of reclassification “is not an endorsement of the use of the cannabis plant or cannabis resin for medical purposes,” adding that it won’t change marijuana’s status under the Controlled Substances Act or international conventions. 


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UN: One bold step for CBD 


Countries gave a range of reasons for voting down the CBD proposal, with some saying it was overly broad or vague. A delegate said the U.S. disagreed on legal grounds: Because cannabidiol isn’t currently listed on the schedule of controlled substances, he said, a special vote isn’t required to keep it off the schedule.

Instead, he said, the expert committee’s recommendation should itself be enough to establish that CBD is not subject to international control.

“Cannabidiol has not demonstrated abuse potential, and it is not our position that cannabidiol should be or is under the control of the international drug conventions.”


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