The commission, which is made up of 53 member states, removed marijuana from the list of Schedule IV narcotics, as classified by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (the Schedule IV category mostly included opioids, such as heroin and various kinds of fentanyl). Additionally, the commission rejected a proposal to include THC in the 1961 convention, which could have led to stricter marijuana laws.
While the UN’s decision has no impact on individual countries’ marijuana laws, it could make it easier to conduct medical marijuana research. Additionally, the symbolic nature of the move could prompt some countries to loosen their medical marijuana restrictions.
“Something like this does not mean that legalization is just going to happen around the world,” Jessica Steinberg, managing director at the cannabis consulting group Global C, said. But she added that “it could be a watershed moment.”
The UN’s decision was based on recommendations made by the World Health Organization in 2019, but the delay in the vote shows how contentious the issue was. In the end, the reclassification passed by a slim margin of 27 to 25, with the Ukraine abstaining. The United States and many European countries were among those who voted “yes,” while countries such as China, Russia, Nigeria, and Egypt voted “no.”
The UN’s decision happens to come just as the United States House of Representatives announced that it would vote on the first federal marijuana legalization bill. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (or, the MORE Act) would decriminalize cannabis federally and institute various social and criminal justice measures that would benefit communities of color that were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, and help them get a foothold in the legal cannabis industry. But while the MORE Act is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, it’s unlikely the Senate will vote on it any time soon.