The medical marijuana industry scored a big win this week when the U.N. voted to downgrade cannabis’ status as a dangerous Schedule IV substance.
As more and more studies show the therapeutic and medical benefits of cannabis, international bodies like the United Nations are catching up on the power of natural, green medicine. That’s why a U.N. vote on cannabis this week is so vitally important for medical cannabis patients everywhere.
A United Nations panel approved a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to delete cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention, the most restrictive global scheduling category this week. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CDN) voted 27 to 25, with one abstention, to strike cannabis and cannabis resin products from the same category as the likes of dangerous, addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.
That’s an important move for a wide variety of reasons, and this article is going to break down the reasons why. We’re going to explore why this vote is so important to the global medical cannabis industry, the impact it could have on scientific research into cannabis and, of course, what it means for medical patients here in the U.S.
Why Is This U.N. Vote So Important?
While this vote, unfortunately, isn’t the final step to unlocking the massive potential of the cannabis industry, it’s a giant step in the right direction towards the normalization of cannabis in medicine all over the world.
Cannabis being considered a Schedule IV drug has been a massive obstacle when it comes to research into medical cannabis, its uses and the technology surrounding it. With this vote, some of those obstacles have been removed. That’s why nations with large medical cannabis markets, like Australia, Germany, Italy, and, of course, the U.S. all voted in favor of the schedule change.
“Continuing down this path not only denies our citizen’s important medicinal products that relieve suffering but also represents a betrayal of the public trust,” Michael Krawitz, executive director for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, told The New York Times.
This vote passing also means that these nations invest in more research and scientific innovation when it comes to medical cannabis. More investment into an industry that’s already worth $16.5 billion and is projected to be worth as much as $73.6 billion by 2027 means that medical cannabis is going to spread across the world like wildfire over the next few years.
Israel, a nation that has embraced medical cannabis research, has become the world leader in medical cannabis innovations. Researches have done groundbreaking studies on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis on diseases like cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, inflammation, pain, and the immune system. It just goes to show that when nation’s open themselves up to cannabis research, markets can flourish as long as the investment is there.
What Does This Mean for American Medical Cannabis Patients?
While this vote doesn’t have an immediate impact on the daily lives of medical cannabis patients in the U.S., it could go a long way to normalizing the push for legality in non-medically legal states.
Even before this vote, legislators all across the country are already making the push for legalizing medical cannabis in their state for 2021. Just in the last few weeks, the Governor of Virginia has called for expanding the state’s medical cannabis program along with recreational legalization, Texas lawmakers are eyeing legalization as a way of boosting the economy and creating jobs, and lawmakers are readying their legalization efforts to try to ride the momentum of a Biden-Harris presidency. This next year could even be the one where New York finally breaks down and legalizes cannabis, giving the East Coast a possible cannabis market that could compete with California.
It’s fair to say that legal cannabis has gained some traction in the US over the past few decades. Since California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis via the approval of Proposition 215 all the way back in 1996, we’ve seen 35 more states and 4 U.S. territories create some type of medicinal cannabis program of their own.
Public support for medical cannabis was an astounding 73 percent in 1999 and has only grown since then. More recent polling puts the national support for medical cannabis as high as 94 percent, which is about as close to complete support in a country as big as the U.S. It is fair to assume that the U.N. decision will help persuade those few people still unsure, of the medicinal value of cannabis,
The real impact of this U.N. vote, however, is the impact it will have internationally. For instance, after the WHO change, Argentina’s government issued a decree authorizing sales and self-cultivation of cannabis for medical use, and the justification explicitly refers to the outcome of the critical review and the WHO recommendation. That’s a real, practical example of a difference this vote and changes to the rules have already made.
Hopefully, Argentina is just the first domino to fall when it comes to the international medical cannabis market, and this vote might provide the momentum needed to get things going.
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