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With 2017 legislation, Argentina joined the growing number of South American countries to relax cannabis laws. At the end of 2020, that legislation was expanded, and now finally, Argentina allows cannabis self-cultivation for medical use.
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Cannabis in Argentina
Cannabis is not legal for recreational use in Argentina, but small amounts of it were decriminalized back in 2009. In the Arriola decision, which was the result of a court case arising from the arrest of five men, the court determined that small amounts of drugs meant for personal use, that won’t affect or cause harm to anyone else, and which pose no threat of danger, are decriminalized. There is no official amount set for personal use, meaning law enforcement and judges must use their own discretion per case.
Much like Mexico and South Africa, which each have constitutional rulings related to cannabis and the right of an individual to live life as they see fit without intrusion from the government, Argentina’s court ruled that “Each adult is free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state.” The decision was also meant to encourage law enforcement money to be spent on bigger cases, while leaving small-time users to enter treatment programs instead.
Cannabis trafficking is illegal in Argentina and can incur a penalty of 4-15 years in prison. It’s illegal for residents to grow marijuana for commercial purposes.
Medical bill 2017
On the 29th of March, 2017, Argentina’s senate approved legislation for the legalization of medical cannabis. The bill requires those in need of cannabis medications to register with the country’s national program, which is overseen by the Ministry of Health. Not only that, the government actually set it up to provide free access of these medications to patients and children approved for their use.
The reason it’s free is because the medical ‘program’ was set up under the bill as a research initiative called the National Program for the Study and Research of the Medicinal Use of the Cannabis Plant and its By-products and Non-conventional Treatments. By law, patients have to be enrolled in the program, and the program allows for medical cannabis oil to be provided to patients free of charge. This law did not technically institute a structured market, leaving the only way to access these medications through the government run program.
Besides starting government run cultivation, the law did something else. It instituted the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime which allows the import of medications with cannabis by-products into the country for verified patients with epilepsy. This provision, as it was written in 2017, does not cover other disorders that can be treated with cannabis medicines. Only licensed physicians, specifically neurology specialists, are able to make such requests on behalf of their patients under this provision.
Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation
When the bill was passed in 2017, cultivation carried a sentence of up to two years. While it was pushed for this bill to include a provision for self-cultivation, Argentinian legislators did not include it in the bill, restricting the ability for sick people to grow their own marijuana. By many, including activist group Mama Cultiva – which helped lead the way for this legalization, this was a major failing in an otherwise big step in the right direction.
In early November 2020, a decree was published in the Official Gazette making the statement that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation for medical purposes. The government legalized personal cultivation, along with legalizing the sale of cannabis products (creams and oils) in pharmacies. The decree was signed by President Alberto Fernández, and states that there should be “timely, safe, inclusive and protective access for those who need to use cannabis as a therapeutic tool.” He added that a regulatory framework must be set up quickly to do so. Though the decree made the statement that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation, it did not detail how many plants an individual could grow, stating that this information would be announced later.
Patients, or groups, who want to access products in pharmacies, or cultivate cannabis plants, must still be registered with the ‘National Cannabis Programme’, through Reprocann – the Registry for the Cannabis Program, which was originally instituted by the 2017 legislation, but which was never actually operational due to a lack of regulation to govern it. When patients register, they can choose to cultivate their own marijuana, buy from a solidary grower, or obtain products through a pharmacy.
It’s good to remind here that simply passing a bill, or signing a decree, does not institute a regulated market. This decree updated the bill passed in 2017, but didn’t do more to offer a regulatory framework, which means in order for these things to happen, more laws have to be passed to provide details for actual usage. Even so, it’s nice to have the law on the books.
This new decree also expands the ability to import cannabis medicines. Whereas the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime only applied to epilepsy patients when the 2017 bill was passed, this has now been expanded to include other ailments like fibromyalgia, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases and disorders that have shown to be helped by cannabis medicines. The government will continue to promote production of cannabis for medical treatments, and, in the same spirit as giving it out to patients for free, will guarantee availability of medications, even to patients who do not have standard health coverage.
According to Prohibition Partners (via Forbes), apart from helping sick people get the medicine they need, and expanding laws so that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation, the cannabis market in Argentina could be worth as much as $40 million in sales by 2024. An increase in revenue has been a strong reason for legalization in other locations, and very likely was an even more powerful motivator than a group of mothers with sick children.
Mama Cultiva and the activists
Argentina is home to a group of influential activists known as Mama Cultiva. As the name implies, this group was started as a group of mothers trying to get medicine for their sick children. Mama Cultiva is an NGO that was originally founded in Chile in 2016, and has been working towards cannabis legalization since that time, both in fighting for new legislation, and providing educational information about cannabis.
Mama Cultiva was a strong force behind the 2017 legalization, and at the time was quite dismayed that cultivation was not given the green light. In light of this new legislation, Mama Cultiva’s Argentina chapter head Valeria Salech said “We’ve been fighting for this for three years… We’re no longer going to be criminalized for seeking a better quality of life for ourselves and our loved ones.”
She explained in a separate statement, “It’s not a law on usage. It doesn’t regulate cannabis. It’s a research law, and the fact that we can insert a mini-regulation in that research law for those of us who grow (the plant) for our health is a big deal.” Mama Cultiva is not just fighting for medical usage, but full recreational legalization, as the organization views it as important for mental health in general.
To give an example of the level of dedication of Mama Cultiva, and why they are so committed, consider that the woman who made these statements, Valeria Salech, has a now 14-year-old son with both epilepsy and autism, who has been using cannabis treatments for six years.
This desire for greater legalization is echoed by the Argentine Cannabis Confederation, a group of pro-legalization product producers that are involved with the production of things like cannabis infused beer, and marijuana growing supplies. This group, which was upset by not being involved in the debates to determine draft legislation, thinks that the current law still doesn’t reach far enough.
Group president Leandro Ayala reminded “We don’t know what’s going to happen with low-level possession, which is what’s hurting us at the moment, the fact that we can be arrested for carrying two marijuana cigarettes.” He did say that he believes the cannabis industry could benefit from self-cultivation, especially in the form of supplying to these home-growers, but was still concerned overall about the issue of minor possession still being illegal.
He went on to point out that cannabis use shouldn’t have to be associated with sickness, and stated about the recent update in laws: “I don’t celebrate that because you’re only going to be able to grow if you’re sick, and in my case I don’t feel like a sick person. I use (cannabis) recreationally. Why do I have to use the shield of saying I have a pathology in order to grow when that’s not true?”
In a way, Argentina just tripped over its own toes, but not in the worst manner. Before even fully setting its 2017 legislative measures into workable motion, Argentina went ahead and updated them. That Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation is great. Going at this rate of updating that which hasn’t even been fully instituted, I can only imagine that a recreational legalization really isn’t too far off in the distance.
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When we think of the legalization of cannabis, it is not a short, concise, or simple story. And each step forward has been the result of some kind of governmental policy change due to changing opinions, or legal consequences as the result of a person’s actions. In this article we’re going back to the re-introduction of medical cannabis in America, which all started in the 70’s with Robert Randall, when he beat the U.S. in court.
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Who is this guy?
There really wasn’t anything terribly special about Robert Randall for the first part of his life. He was born in 1948 in Sarasota Florida, and attended the University of South Florida as a political science major starting at age 19, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in speech and a master’s degree in rhetoric. During this time he started to realize issues with his vision. He would see halos with different colors around lights, his vision would get fuzzy, and he experienced white-blindness – or achromatopsia, a form of color blindness that makes it difficult to distinguish any colors at all. Randall did go to the doctor to investigate these vision issues, but due to his age, he was told it was a result of stress.
After he graduated from university, Randall moved to Washington, DC where he took up as a cab driver. Around 1972, he realized that if he closed his left eye, he was no longer able to read out of his right eye. It didn’t matter if the writing was close up to his face, or several inches away. This time when he went to an ophthalmologist, he was finally given the diagnosis of glaucoma.
There is no cure for glaucoma today, which means there sure wasn’t any back then. Not only was Randall given this diagnosis, but he was told he would go fully blind in three to five years. As with most conditions with no real workable treatment, glaucoma sufferers are generally put on medications to try to preserve eyesight for as long as possible. Then and now, such medications are associated with pain, chronic fatigue, kidney issues, and more. Randall was thoroughly unhappy with the situation.
What is glaucoma?
Before getting farther into Randall’s story, let’s take a look at his affliction to get a better idea of what he was suffering from. Glaucoma is the name given to a number of eye conditions that specifically target and damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve sits in the back of the eye and is responsible for the transfer of visual information from the retina of the eye, to the vision center of the brain, which is does through electrical impulses. The optic nerve itself does not make sense of the information coming in, but rather acts as a vital link in the chain, passing on information to the brain where it can be deciphered.
It’s like a waiter writing down your order at a restaurant and then taking it back to the kitchen where the chef can decode it to prepare the meal. Imagine what would happen if the waiter hurt his leg and could only limp back and forth. Or if he disappeared altogether. There would be no way to get the information from the eaters, all the way to the chefs. It suffices to say that a well-functioning optic nerve is necessary for good vision.
One of the ways glaucoma damages the optic nerve, is with abnormally high pressure. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in those 60 years of age and older, and while it does usually target older generations, it can occur at any age.
I can actually account for this myself, having had high eye pressures nearly my entire life (also affected by the thickness of the cornea, or in my case, the thinness of the cornea). My grandfather was nearly completely blind when he died with glaucoma a couple years ago, my uncle was just as lucky as Robert Randall, being diagnosed in his college years, and my mother actually required holes drilled in her corneas to relieve the pressure. It does say quite a bit for modern medicine that my mother and her brother have not lost their vision…yet. Loss of vision from glaucoma cannot be recovered. Most people with this affliction lose their vision gradually, and often problems aren’t realized until way too late.
There are two types of glaucoma, they are defined by the angle created by the iris (the part of the eye with color) and the cornea, which is the outer layer that covers the eye. Open-angle glaucoma refers to when the iris is in the right place, but fluid is kept from appropriately exiting, creating a build-up of pressure. Kind of like having a clogged drain. In closed-angle glaucoma, the iris itself is usually misshapen or damaged, causing it to be squeezed against the cornea. This also blocks the ability for moisture to leave, allowing for a build-up of pressure. Open-angle is substantially more common.
If you are concerned you might have an eye issue like glaucoma, please consult your family physician or a specialist. Some basic warning signs to be aware of:
Open-angle – patchy blind spots in central or peripheral vision, in one or both eyes. Tunnel vision when advanced stages are reached.
Closed-angle (narrow-angle, acute-angle) – intense headaches, eye pain, blurry vision, halos around lights, eye redness, nausea and vomiting.
And now back to Robert Randall
Robert Randall had smoked marijuana before, and remembered that it had helped with eye strain previously. Around 1973 he realized that smoking cannabis did, indeed, help his eyesight. In fact, remember those halos he was seeing around lights? He found that smoking cannabis helped eliminate them. He found such relief from cannabis that he eventually started growing it himself to cut down on costs. In early 1975, marijuana plants were found on his back porch, and in August of that year, he was busted for simple possession of cannabis. At this time, cannabis was 100% illegal for recreational or medical use in the U.S., and not one state had a medical marijuana policy. The use of cannabis had been outlawed since the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.
Randall decided to fight back. He went in front of the court and presented a medical defense that even his lawyer was not behind, stating that smoking marijuana helped to minimize his suffering from glaucoma. This was a completely novel claim at the time. But Randall persevered, finding research conducted through UCLA that supported his claim, and going through a litany of tests to prove his point.
The United States vs Randall
There are plenty of landmark cases in U.S. legal history, and this case is certainly one of them. In 1976, Robert Randall went up against the US federal government using a medical necessity defense for his use of marijuana. Through the case it was found that according to the original diagnosing doctor, Doctor Fine, that the drugs being used to treat his glaucoma were completely ineffective by 1974 due to increased resistance.
Once on trial, he became a participant in experimental programs led by Dr. Hepler who worked for the US government. Dr. Hepler testified in court that Randall was not being helped by the medications, and that surgery was a dangerous idea as it could result in immediate blindness. In fact, the main result of the medical tests was that marijuana smoke did reduce his visual problems, and had a beneficial effect on his overall condition.
The court ruled in Randall’s favor as it found he met all the requirements for a necessity defense, and that he had not caused his own blindness. Judge James A. Washington of the D.C. Superior Court stated when Randall beat the U.S. “…the evil he sought to avert, blindness, is greater than that he performed.” When Robert Randall beat the U.S., he became the first person in the U.S. since 1937 who could legally smoke marijuana. And not just smoke it, but have it provided to him by the U.S. government. Something that continued until his death on June 2nd 2001 due to AIDS complications.
Around the same time that Randall beat the U.S. in court and the charges were dismissed, Randall’s attorneys were successful in petitioning the FDA to have him participate in a research program that would allot him 10 joints a day. This was fine, though Randall often complained about the quality of the government marijuana, claiming it tasted metallic and that street cannabis was better. Then in 1978, his eye doctor moved states and Randall was abruptly dropped from the program. So, what did he do? In 1978 Randall successfully sued the U.S. government to be included in the program once more! Yes, Randall beat the U.S. government again. In fact, this means Randall beat the U.S. government twice. First defensively, and then offensively.
Randall wasn’t just out for himself, he became one of the leading cannabis activists of the time. He travelled around lecturing – even risking his own ability to access cannabis, as well as pushing for legal change. Between 1978-1980, he was an instrumental aide in enacting 30 different laws throughout the States that recognized the medical benefits of cannabis, and also helped establish programs to provide medical cannabis access to patients. Most were never actually active though as the federal government fought hard to close them.
In 1981 he founded the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, a non-profit which pushed for greater legal freedoms when it comes to medical marijuana. He even drafted legislation for the 97th congress for the fair and compassionate use of medical marijuana. Hearings were never heard on it, but it did attract 110 co-sponsors including a young Newt Gingrich.
In the 1990’s he began focusing more on AIDS, likely because of his own situation of being diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. He established MARS – the Marijuana AIDS Research Service to help those with AIDS obtain cannabis for medicine. Hundreds of patients went to access this service, and though it was initially approved by the government, it was abruptly closed, even though requests had been given the okay. This left a lot of sick people with no means for legal, useful, cannabis medication, and public outrage over it led to different states eventually offering up ballot measures. It’s what helped drive California to pass Proposition 215 in 1996, becoming the first state to have an instituted medical marijuana program (which came well after Virginia allowed medical use in a drug bill, but never put it into action).
Randall also authored six books, one of which was about his plight. Co-authored with his partner Alice O’Leary, the book is entitled Marijuana RX: the Patients Fight for Medical Pot. He died in 2001 in the same city he was born, Sarasota, Florida. He was 53 years old.
Robert Randall’s name is not one of the more well-known when it comes to legal antics or cannabis, yet he proved himself to be one of the most important figures in the re-establishment of medical marijuana. As medical legalization policies sprout up all over the world, and as medical cannabis was just rescheduled according to the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Substances, perhaps we should take a minute to give a little thankful appreciation to one of the heroes that helped make it happen. So thank you Robert Randall, for having the intelligence, motivation, and drive to beat the U.S. in court, and for fighting to help those in need.
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When it comes to Virginia and cannabis, Virginia didn’t see any big changes with the last US election. This is because the state had already decriminalized cannabis earlier this spring, and expanded on its own medical legalization policy this past summer. However, there’s one other thing when it comes to Virginia and cannabis, something that’s often misunderstood. Virginia was actually the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana, back in 1979.
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Was Virginia really first?
Indeed it was! And it went through with practically no buzz at all. In 1979, Virginia did an overhaul of its drug laws which included the inclusion of the use of cannabis medicines for people specifically suffering from glaucoma and cancer. The medical legalization allowed patients with these illnesses to receive the medications, but wasn’t expanded on past that point for many, many years. In fact, it wasn’t until 2017 that the bill was finally expanded to include more conditions and generally looser policies. It was updated yet again in the summer of 2020.
So, what happened to the bill? Not much. The issue with legalizations is that they don’t come compact with finished frameworks for regulation. They merely state the decision to change the legality of a specific thing. Once the status is changed, especially when a former black-market product becomes a regular market product, there has to be some kind of setup for how it’ll work. Will it be taxed, at what rate, and by what entity? How can it be used exactly, and where? Are there age restrictions? What’s the cost, and is there a cost ceiling? Where can the product come from, and what are the regulations for producing it?
These things and more must be figured out, and if they aren’t, the legalization is open to much debate in court, apart from the fact that it stymies the ability to have an operational industry. For years the law sat, practically unknown to the Board of Medicine, attorney general, or court system in general.
To say that it passed quietly is true, but this didn’t stop its near repeal two decades later. In 1996, upon California’s debate to legalize cannabis for medical use, Virginia suddenly became more aware of its own cannabis standing, and there was a major political fight that made it look like the bill would be repealed. One of the issues that led to this attempt to repeal, was that the law as it was written, allowed any doctor to recommend cannabis use, not just doctors in the state. It was probably written like this originally, because no other state had a legalization policy. In the end, it wasn’t repealed, but that didn’t mean much.
Why did no one hear about Virginia and its new-age cannabis policy back in the late 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s? Because it just sat there. No body to oversee anything, no laws on the books. Just a legalization that hung out there, essentially doing nothing. And barely being noticed until California did its thing.
How are California and Virginia different?
When people say that California was the first to pass a medical cannabis bill, in a way it is true. Virginia was the first state to allow any kind of cannabis use medically, but that was really a part of a much bigger bill. Sort of an afterthought to it.
California, on the other hand, crafted a bill specifically for the use of cannabis in medicine. Called the Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative (or, The Compassionate Use Act), not only was it a bill centered around medical marijuana use specifically, but it was a ballot measure which was voted in by its people through Proposition 215. Virginians never knew that their laws were tweaked to allow medical cannabis use in 1979, it was never put out there for them, voted on by them, or explained to them in any way.
For California, it wasn’t a tiny add-on to another bill, but rather its own. In that way, California was most certainly the first US state to craft and pass its own medical cannabis bill, centered on cannabis, and about medical cannabis only. For anyone who thinks this makes it the first cannabis legalization, this would be incorrect, and it goes back to Virginia earning that title. Unfortunately, the title meant very little as the state dragged its feet to institute the policy.
Where else can this be seen?
Mexico is a great example of this right now. In 2018, the country legalized recreational cannabis use through its court system, which forced the legislative system to come up with laws to match the judiciary system. The laws were due out quite some time ago, but for various reasons have been postponed repeatedly, with the current date not until the spring. This leaves Mexico in a weird legal limbo. Some things like selling and trafficking are always illegal (and don’t require new legislation). Other things like use and possession are more fluid. How much a person has and what they’re doing with it, could mean the difference between a jail sentence, paying a fine, and nothing at all. The world has been watching Mexico and waiting for the outcome, for Virginia, there were no eyes on it, and so a suspended animation was created for decades with no movement.
States like New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana are in the same boat. All four just changed their legalizations policies for medical, recreational, or both, in the last election, meaning they have new laws, but no framework yet to use them. The idea is always to get the regulations hammered out quickly so as not to maintain a system where there is legal ambiguity. After all, if someone gets arrested for an act now that has technically been made legal, but which has no actual laws to govern it, it creates a gray area that can be argued extensively in court.
Post elections, it was announced that the governor of Virginia was pushing for an adult-use recreational policy. When states like California, Oregon, and Maine went legal, it wasn’t a huge surprise, but Virginia would be the first southern state to legalize marijuana, highlighting a major shift in overall thought regarding cannabis policy.
Virginia is a southern state, with a cannabis decriminalization policy that was signed by the governor in May 2020, and went into effect July 1st. The law (SB2 and HB 972) decriminalizes up to an ounce of cannabis. Virginia can swing red or blue, and like other states – both north and south – has both a strong conservative and liberal foundation. When looking at the other US locations that have legalized for recreational use, they all have one thing in common, they are not in the south, and have generally stronger liberal bases. There have been more medical legalizations in these states (West Virginia has one, Mississippi just voted one in), but many of the holdout states like Georgia and South Carolina (no medicinal legalization, recreational legalization, or decriminalization measures), are in the south.
Virginia is not the only southern state to decriminalize. It joins Mississippi, which decriminalized small amounts of cannabis in 1978; and Missouri which decriminalized up to 10 grams in 2014. But, if Virginia actually passes a recreational cannabis measure, it’ll be the first southern state to do so.
When it comes to new cannabis legalization measures, there are many firsts, and not all of them are terribly impressive. Virginia could have been a massively trailblazing state, but instead passed a huge legalization measure for the time, and then essentially went and took a nap for two decades. When it comes to Virginia and cannabis, it’s a story of not just the overall change in legalization policies, but the idea that such policies are reaching down to places that have been holding onto their marijuana illegalization laws very tightly. Just the fact that the legalization passed in 1979 says something, just like Virginia being one of only a few states in the region to consider cannabis legalizations of any kind. If Virginia legalizes cannabis recreationally, it’ll go back to being the first. In this case, the first southern state to break away and change course.
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More and more countries have been loosening their policies when it comes to the non-psychoactive component of cannabis – CBD (cannabidiol). With a new amendment waiting for final approval, Israel says CBD is not dangerous, and is expected next week to remove it from its Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.
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When it comes to cannabis, Israel is not the most lax country when it comes to regulation. However, this undermines the fact that Israel is about the most far ahead when it comes to medical research concerning cannabis. With the help of Raphael Mechoulam, whose work was roundly ignored for decades, and who in the more recent environment of cannabis acceptance has now been lauded for his work, Israel has been the world leader in cannabis research. This did not stop the drug from being completely illegal recreationally, with no personal use laws until only the last couple years. Now, in a move that shows its ready to play catch-up for real, Israel not only is discussing plans for a recreational legalization, but is set to remove CBD from its list of dangerous drugs, with the expectation that CBD products will soon be lining supermarket shelves.
Current Israeli cannabis laws
Israel only instituted a decriminalization policy for cannabis in 2019, which affords personal use rights for small amounts in the home. The term ‘small amounts’ was defined by the Anti-Drug Authority as 15 grams. Public use and possession still results in a fine of 1000 NIS, or $307 (by today’s conversion), though this is a vast improvement from what it was before, when offenders could be required to pay as much as 226,000 NIS, or $69,479 (by today’s conversion). The 1000 NIS is just for a first offense, and doubles with the second offence, and turns into a criminal act on the third. This comes with the loss of a drivers’ license and/or gun as well. Minors under the age of 18 who reject a treatment program when caught, can still be subjected to jail time.
Like pretty much anywhere in the world, selling and supply crimes are illegal, and offenders can find themselves with 20-year prison sentences. This can be increased to 25 years in the case of extenuating circumstances, like selling to a minor. Cultivation is technically illegal, but also seems to fall into gray area. According to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, growing can carry up to 20 years. In 2017, the publication Cannabis made public that there had been an order issued which stated that growing small amounts for personal use would only be seen as a minor violation. This was meant to be a way to separate large-scale, and small-scale growers. However, this order was obviously never meant to be public, and when Cannabis put out the news, the response from law enforcement was that no change had legally been made.
When it comes to medical, Israel legalized medicinal use in 1999, this coming 3-4 decades after the initial release of groundbreaking studies into the medical attributes of cannabis. First it was limited to terminal patients with cancer or AIDS, until the law was updated in 2007 by the Israeli Ministry of Health, which broadened the scope of the program to allow more ailments to be treated with cannabis. In 2019, a bill was introduced to allow the exportation of medical cannabis internationally.
So, what’s the deal with CBD?
While it almost seemed like CBD was going to get an international pass when the UN recently voted on cannabis rescheduling measures, the result was only a removal of cannabis from schedule IV, with no further clarification on CBD. Even so, Israel is treating it as if that clarification was made, saying CBD is not dangerous, and does not need to be treated like it is.
In 2016 it was first brought up in Israel’s Knesset to remove CBD from Israel’s list of dangerous drugs, where it has been since 1973. Notice how this article is being written now and not in 2016, as it is only just now up for removal in 2020. While plenty of CBD products are sold in Israel, this removal would open up use even further. In August of this year, the Minister of Health approved the removal of CBD from the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. Next week, the Knesset Health Committee is expected to give the final approval for this to go into effect. Assuming this happens, regulation of CBD will then fall under the Ministry of Health’s Medical Cannabis Unit. The Ministry of Health had been investigating the idea of removing CBD for years, with Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish working to accelerate the pace to move things forward. Kish has been working on this for quite some time, along with bringing down the price of medical cannabis in Israel.
Once CBD is officially removed, it means the compound can be added to any number of regular products found on supermarket shelves including toothpaste, chocolate bars, beauty products, supplements, and almost anything else that the compound can be squeezed into. In fact, any cosmetic or food produce will be able to contain CBD, so long as the THC content is .3% or lower – which is more in-line with US standards than European standards, even though Europe is Israel’s biggest export market target. The EU, of course, is in its own quest to possibly raise the approved THC content allowable in products to .3% as well. The final wording of the amendment defines cannabis as the entire cannabis plant, including roots, but excluding oil extracted from seeds, or finished products with a THC content not exceeding .3%.
Another thing to understand about this amendment is that it’s not all about CBD. It includes every cannabinoid that’s not THC, so long as the product or preparation still adheres to the no more than .3% THC policy. This means that other psychoactive cannabinoids like CBN (cannabinol), will also be able to be freely used. THC would remain the only compound listed in the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, meaning that according to Israel, CBD is not dangerous, and neither are other non-THC cannabinoids.
It should always be remembered when reading a story like this, that the final approval has not actually been made. Next week, when the Knesset Health Committee gets together, it will discuss the issue. If it agrees that CBD is not dangerous, then it can officially make the approval of the amendment. So, while it does seem like Israel is taking a straight shot to making this happen, it’s not a done deal, and technically, doesn’t have to be. Interested parties should keep a watch on the news (and this site) to find out the outcome next week.
What does this mean for Israel?
Obviously, it gives the ability for wider use of CBD, which many find to be useful for a variety of medical issues. But, like always, it goes well beyond helping citizens get more CBD in their lives.
According to consulting firm Deloitte Israel in a report from September 2019, the Israeli market for CBD, including cosmetics, dietary supplements, and food and beverages, stands to be worth $300-475 million within the next five years. The estimation is that Israel will be able to attain and hold about 1.5% of the total global CBD market share by 2025, which should be approximately $30 billion by that time. The industry is also expected to open up about 8,000 new jobs for Israelis.
By 2025 it’s expected that cannabis cosmetics will account for about 15% of all cosmetic sales globally. By 2026, its expected that nutritional supplements containing CBD will generate $345 billion in just the US, with Israel seeing approximately $120-150 million in revenue accordingly from that time period, in that field. In terms of foods and beverages containing CBD, its expected that in five years from the start of the policy, that the market will bring in $18-36 billion a year for Israel.
Right now, Europe is Israel’s biggest export country target, and by the end of this year, Europe is expected to have approximately €8.3 billion in revenue from CBD product sales. This is expected to increase to about €13.6 billion a year by 2025. The largest market within Europe for CBD sales is Germany, which is expected to bring in €1.8 billion in sales by the end of the year. The UK (though not a part of the EU anymore) is the second biggest market in the region, and is expected to bring in €1.7 billion in CBD product sales by the end of this year. While its totally possible for some of these numbers to be off (in fact, I guarantee you, they will be), they do show the basic parameters of what can be attained in these industries, what can be expected as far as growth, and the potential of a country like Israel to pull in a huge chunk of the action.
One last note on Israeli cannabis reform. The country may actually be starting to lay the foundations for recreational legalization, potentially within a year, with Canada as the basic model for regulating an adult-use market.
For a country with more cannabis research, knowledge, and expertise than any other place in the world, it’s about time for Israel to be a bit more forward thinking. Luckily, the last few years have shown that Israel can not only play catch-up in terms of regulation and legalization, but is still capable of essentially dominating the field.
It should also be noted, that the amendment that will remove CBD – and all other non-THC cannabinoids – from the list of dangerous drugs, will also lower the price of cannabis medicines by as much as 50%, and make it far easier for doctors to issue prescriptions to patients for cannabis medications.
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Language has been used to control populations for centuries. Slang and derogatory words have been twisted to offend entire cultures. One of these terms was marijuana used to criminalize cannabis. Thankfully, the plant (cannabis or marijuana) regained some medical traction several decades later, but is cannabis not medicinal? “…medical marihuana defines varying programs…” Propaganda against cannabis or marijuana openly […]
India is the kind of place that has a rich history and culture of cannabis use going back thousands of years. Yet, even so, this does not equal a legalization today. Though recreational cannabis use is illegal, this does nothing to stop India’s bhang loophole from letting everyone use it anyway.
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India and cannabis laws
In India, according to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 (yup, legal until then), both use and possession of cannabis are illegal, with no personal use laws present. 1985 marked 25 years since the initiation of the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances treaty which had allowed India 25 years to essentially get its house in order drug-wise, leading to the 1985 ban. This means, even being caught with a small quantity can incur the offender up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to 10,000 rupees. When a person is caught with an amount greater than a ‘small quantity’ (1 kilo), but lesser than a ‘commercial quantity’, the prison sentence can go as high as ten years with a fine as much as 100,000 rupees. If a person is caught possessing a ‘commercial quantity’, the prison sentence goes up to 10-20 years, and the fine up to 100,000-200,000. Whereas repeat offenders caught with 20 kg or more of hash or a product with 500 grams+ of THC used to be subject to mandatory death sentences, this was struck down in 2011 by the Bombay High Court, and replaced with a death sentence option rather than requirement. Still pretty nuts.
To be clear on what exactly is illegal and where, the NDPS states that cannabis resins and flowers are illegal, but is fine with leaves and seeds of the plant, allowing individual states to set their own legislation accordingly.
Use crimes incur far more lenient sentences. Prison sentences are generally no more than a year, and often as short as six months and/or a fine of up to 10,000 rupees.
Sale and supply crimes are illegal, and the penalties are the same as for possession, with rising penalties with larger amounts of contraband. Trafficking, as always, is illegal, and offenders are subject to 10-20 years in prison, and a fine of 100,000-200,000 rupees. This is the same, you’ll notice, as the top possession penalty, and also comes with the ability for a death sentence. Even higher prison sentences than 20 years are given at times if the offender was violent, holds public office, involved a minor or a sale near an educational facility, or is part of organized crime.
Cultivation is illegal outside of scientific use, industrial use, or research purposes, all of which require special licensing. Offenders caught growing can face up to 10 years in prison and a 10,000 rupee fine.
CBD is actually perfectly legal to buy and sell in India as the THC content is considered not enough to produce a high.
What about medical?
India is a great example of medical contradictions. One of the things to understand about India is that it’s the home of Ayurvedic medicine, a natural medicine tradition that goes back thousands of years, and which is still used widely today all over the world (much like Chinese medicine). As such, cannabis has been used as medicine in India for thousands of years.
Now, having said that, because of current laws and bans which were all instituted in the last hundred years, India – a country that is home to one of the most famous medical traditions which includes cannabis – doesn’t actually have a federal medical cannabis program, although there is limited access to some cannabis medicines. Much like the US, different states in India have their own medical legalization policies. For example, India’s second largest state, Madhya Pradesh, legalized cannabis cultivation for medical and industrial purposes, in 2019. As a poor state, it was hoping to attract more business, and bring in more revenue with this new policy. How the policy helps its own citizens has not been as well defined.
This is, once again, rather sad considering India’s longstanding medical use of cannabis. In the traditional Indian medicine texts from thousands of years ago – Atharva Veda, cannabis is mentioned as one of five sacred plants. It doesn’t show up in Ayurvedic texts until the Middle Ages. In Ayurveda, the plant is split into three component parts: ‘bhang’ is the name used for the leaves of both male and female plants. The word ‘ganja’ is used to denote the flowering tops of a female plant, and ‘charas’ is the name given for the resin of the plant. To make things a bit confusing, these terms have changed a bit over time, with ‘ganja’ often simply referring to a cannabis plant in general, and bhang being used for a ganja-based drink (the basis for India’s bhang loophole).
Cannabis is essentially considered toxic and medicinal at the same time, and was cited for the indication of digestion issues, pain management, sleep issues, spastic issues, glaucoma, high blood pressure, psychiatric disorders, tuberculosis, tumors, and tons of other applications. And this was all passed down from well before Western medicine came into being.
But, bhang is sold a lot…
While cannabis is mainly illegal in India, one form of it isn’t illegal at all, making for India’s bhang loophole. The term ‘bhang’ as mentioned before, refers to the leaves of a cannabis plant, but it also refers to a cannabis drink. Bhang is a drink made by soaking cannabis leaves in water, and then grinding it all into a paste. The paste is then used in drinks like bhang thandai, and bhang lassi, both spicy, milky concoctions that are associated with religious festivals like Holi, but which are also general mainstays of Hindu culture.
In fact, in 1961, the Indian delegation at the negotiations for the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, opposed how intolerant the treaty was to its customs, both social and religious, and negotiated a use of language that doesn’t illegalize bhang, specifically in the mentioning of the parts of the plant used. Remember the original definition of bhang as the leaves of a cannabis plant? Well, the wording of the treaty is as follows: “”Cannabis” means the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops) from which the resin has not been extracted, by whatever name they may be designated.”
The presence of bhang, therefore, undermines the illegality of cannabis in India, and is widely available to the public, though different states have their own legalization policies, some instituting minimum use ages, some instituting maximum carry amounts, and some instituting other specific requirements for its sale. It should be pointed out that India’s negotiation for that linguistic deal in the treaty which creates India’s bhang loophole, meant a promised limit of hemp exports.
Bhang has religious uses, but it also has its place in Ayurvedic medicine, and is one of five sacred plants (as a part of cannabis) that is mentioned in Atharva Veda. It has been used to treat many issues from digestive issues to malaria to anxiety, and so on. According to one popular version of folklore, the Hindu gods roiled the cosmic ocean in a quest for the elixir of immortality (Amrit), and the god Shiva was called on to drink up the poison from the ocean, which burned his throat blue until the goddess Parvati mixed up some bhang to relieve him. Bhang is often offered to Shiva during the summer months.
In the past several years, there has been more talk of legalization. One of the cases that has gained widespread notoriety, and brought much attention to the topic, has to do with the arrest of actress Rhea Chakraborty for the possession of marijuana – 59 grams of flower and 5 grams of hash. This arrest likely is connected to her possible role in the death of fellow actor and boyfriend Sushant Singh. However, the arrest is seen by many as an attempt to do something, among much media frenzy, and highlights the unfairness of laws that punish users over traffickers.
To give an idea of how badly the NDPS exploits personal users, a study by Vidhi Legal shows 59% of arrested users are caught with only personal amounts. This indicates the law punishes personal users more than traffickers, and would also indicate a massive reduction in arrests to omit personal use. In the same analysis, it showed that in Mumbai in 2017 and 2018, 97-98% of cases involved possession for personal use. That’s nearly every case.
One of the larger legalization efforts is made through The Great Legalization Movement India (GLM India), which was founded in 2014. This non-profit organization aims to educate the public as well as launch campaigns. The group was responsible for India’s first medical cannabis conference, which was held on May 10, 2015 in Bengaluru, India.
While recreational cannabis might take longer to legalize in India, there is a decent chance that the recent UN change in drug scheduling that takes cannabis out of schedule IV, and opens up legal medicinal use, might encourage more of India to legalize for medicinal use. This would be great on many levels. It would provide Indians with cannabis medications, as well as allowing the country to embrace its own history.
India represents different sides of the cannabis legalization issue. On one side is the country that changed international negotiations to maintain its use of cannabis, on the other is a country that eschewed its long history of medicinal cannabis use in favor of no federal medical cannabis program. Obviously, international regulation and pressure have had an effect on all this. As these regulations and pressures change and lessen, it could very well be that India’s bhang loophole will turn into a full medical legalization, and maybe not too far in the future, a recreational legalization as well.
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The push and pull of the cannabis legalization issue can be seen all over the globe, with a recent UN vote officially legalizing cannabis for medical use. But what about cocaine? Is the medical value of cocaine coming back into play? A current bill is making its way through the Colombian government that says Colombia will legalize cocaine.
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Colombia and cocaine have gone together like peanut butter and jelly since Pablo Escobar started using old cannabis trafficking routes to move the white powder out of Colombia, and to the rest of the world. Now, with a new bill moving its way through Colombian government, its looking like there’s a good chance Colombia will legalize cocaine.
A look at the history of cocaine
When it comes to cocaine, the main story that we all know starts in the middle of the 70’s with Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel, however cocaine has been used for much longer than that. In fact, in South American countries like Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, locals have been chewing on coca leaves for thousands of years to get their mildly stimulating effect. This allowed workers to suppress their appetites and work longer hours.
When the Spanish came to South America, they wanted to send their spoils back home, and employed the locals to work long hours digging up gold and silver, for which they enforced the use of coca leaves. At this time, the leaves themselves were not being taken anywhere as they couldn’t maintain through the journey back to Europe. For this reason, use stayed local for quite some time.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that German chemist Albert Niemann was able to isolate the active compound of the plant which he renamed ‘cocaine’ in his 1860 published finding. Niemann didn’t get to do much more work with the drug as he died the following year from damage to his lungs caused by experimenting with mustard gas as a weapon for war.
A few years later, in 1863, Corsican chemist Angela Mariani created a mixture of cocaine and wine which was sold as a medicine for the treatment of anemia, pain, as an appetite suppressant, and stomach stimulant. He called it Vin Mariani. This concoction gained notoriety all over the world, and led to the creation of many different – yet similar – products containing cocaine.
One of the many copycats was US pharmacist John Pemberton who made his own wine and cocaine mixture. When the Ku Klux Klan demanded that alcohol be banned in Atlanta in the mid-1860’s, Pemberton came up with a new idea, and replaced the alcohol in the drink with soda water, a mixture he called Coca-Cola. Yes, for anyone not in the know, Coca-Cola did, in fact, once contain cocaine. Before it had to be taken out of the beverage upon growing health concerns in the early 1900’s, Pemberton had reformulated the drink to have 7.2mg of cocaine per ounce. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act put forth regulation for the cocaine industry, which essentially ended it for many decades, apart from people using it like rich Hollywood stars.
The more recent cocaine story
And now back to the story we’re all familiar with, although how it started might not be as familiar. Even before Pablo Escobar came on the scene, the road was already being paved for a new cocaine boom. The New York Times published an article in 1974 which stated cocaine was “a good high achieved without the forbiddingly dangerous needle and addiction of heroin.”
This was followed up by a book written by journalist Richard Ashley, which failed to find negatives associated with cocaine apart from those related to not having common sense. Even Newsweek Magazine published illustrations of high-class folks doing lines of cocaine.
And perhaps all this helped Escobar to do his thing. By using old cannabis trafficking lines, Escobar built up a trafficking network to move cocaine out of Colombia, inciting a massive and violent drug war. This war exploded in 1975 when in retaliation for the seizure of 600kg of cocaine by law enforcement, the cartel took out about 40 people in one weekend, known after that as the ‘Medellin Massacre’. It’s thought that at the peak of its existence, the Medellin Cartel was bringing in approximately $60 million per day in profits. What really allowed the cartel to take off, was its partnership with Carlos Lehder, a marijuana smuggler who showed Escobar and his partners Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, and the Ochoa brothers, how to use small planes to fly the cocaine directly into the US. While much coca is grown in Colombia, at that time, the majority was being imported from Bolivia and Peru, and only processed in Colombia before being trafficked out.
One of the factors that led to Escobar’s downfall and death, was competing cartel, the Cali Cartel which started operations only a year after the Medellin Cartel, in 1977, and which is said to have worked with the government to bring Escobar down. This cartel started as a kidnapping ring, and then focused its earnings into trafficking, starting with marijuana, and moving onto cocaine. While Escobar is still the biggest name in cocaine history, the history of cocaine didn’t stop with his death. It was carried on by the Cali cartel, the Norte del Valle Cartel which operated from the early 90’s till around 2012, the North Coast Cartel which operated from the late 90’s till around 2004, and a number of smaller groups with more specific, compartmentalized jobs, that have operated in conjunction since then.
One last thing to remember about the history of cocaine, according to the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Substances 1961, though cocaine is in schedule I, it’s also schedule III, making it perfectly legal internationally for medical use:
“III – Preparations of substances listed in Schedule II, as well as preparations of cocaine”
Two of the things that are extremely hard to pin down, are how much money exactly is earned (though this is much easier), and how many people die (and have died), as a result of this trade. In terms of the latter, when questioned about it concerning a line that came up from an episode of Narcos, Elizabeth Zili, the former DEA head of intelligence in Colombia affirmed that no hard numbers exist saying “I really couldn’t give you a number, but it was extremely high. We never totally trusted the statistics we were getting from the [Colombian] government. One never does, no matter where you are.” Even if hard numbers for death tolls can’t be confirmed, that thousands of people have died since the 70’s as part of the trade is generally not argued.
When it comes to the former point on how much is earned, (and how much is used), here are some basic stats. One kilo of cocaine is produced by processing about 125 kilos of coca leaves. This production costs a local drug lab approximately $137.50. Once the leaves are turned into actual cocaine, the value goes up to $2,269. This same amount can garner a profit of about $60,000+ in America, and more internationally, with the value going as high as $235,000 in a place like Australia.
Pretty much all the cocaine in the world comes from Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, with Colombia providing about 70% of it in 2018. About 4% of the world’s population (or 300 million) have used cocaine in their lives, with approximately 18.1 million people using the drug in 2018 alone. As of 2018, approximately 169,000 hectares of land are being used for growing coca in Colombia, and about 130,000 families survive by farming it.
Will it be legalized?
Obviously, the title of this article isn’t about history, but the future, and the question of whether Colombia will legalize cocaine. In an effort to curb the drug trade, different avenues have been tried like eradicating plants by spraying chemicals on them aerially, forced crop substitutions so that farmers can maintain income, and decriminalization. None of it has worked. One of the bigger steps taken though, was the decriminalization of all drugs in 1994, including hard drugs like cocaine. Now, in a further effort to curb trafficking, the Colombian government might take this decriminalization one step further with a bill saying Colombia will legalize cocaine.
In 2019, a bill was introduced by Colombian senators Feliciano Valencia and Ivan Marulanda as a new way to fight the war on drugs. The proposed legislation revolves around the idea that Colombia will legalize cocaine, and is a cocaine use and regulation bill which would move control of cultivation and production to the government (and away from cartels). The bill doesn’t specify a ban on exportation of the drug, but focuses more on cutting financing to cartels, just like Uruguay did with its legalization for recreational cannabis. It would also push for more scientific research into it. This bill comes about a year after the introduction of a bill for the legalization of cannabis recreationally.
To say that there is opposition to this bill is an understatement, but its not an impossibility. It also would NOT be the first country to do it. Back in 1988, Bolivia did the very same thing, passing Law 1008 which legalized the cultivation of coca and instated a regulated industry. This, of course, did not stop the US from trying to eradicate fields, and even led to Operation Naked King, a DEA sting operation as late as 2015 targeting Evo Morales, the Bolivian president who drove the DEA out of Bolivia in 2008. Not only is there opposition, but as Bolivia shows, the US makes such a move a rather risky one, and calls into question whether there is a possibility at all that Colombia will legalize cocaine.
To shed more light on the current Colombian initiative, it wouldn’t just set up a regulated, government-run industry, it would actually require the government to buy all the coca grown, for redistribution for medical purposes. The idea would be for the government to buy the coca at market prices. If it seems like this would be incredibly expensive, consider that this move would cost Colombia approximately 2.6 trillion pesos ($680 million USD), whereas eradication programs actually cost four trillion pesos ($1 billion USD) annually. It’s essentially cheaper if the government buys it, rather than destroying it. This allows farmers to keep their businesses while bringing them into a legal market, and cuts down on deforestation by farmers in attempts to hide crops. The government would then provide raw materials to different industries for the production of baking flour, foods, teas, and other medicinal products.
To be clear, because of the decriminalization in 1994, personal use of cocaine, is actually legal, although a 2018 decree does give law enforcement the ability to confiscate it.
Getting people on board to accept cannabis legalizations has been an arduous task. This can be seen in the rejection of the removal of cannabis from schedule I of the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Substances, which just failed recently. So, the idea of selling the legalization of an even harder drug is no easy feat. Perhaps it is lucky for Colombia that Bolivia went first.
I tend to think that when these initiatives come up, they mean something, even if they originally fail. I don’t know if this bill will pass, but chances are that if this one doesn’t, the next one will. There is a drive and motivation to change how the industry works, to redistribute the cash flow, and to actually use the drug more efficiently. Just like with cannabis legalizations, it isn’t always the first effort that works, but once the idea has been initiated, you can be 99% sure that there will be a follow-through eventually. I’d say at this point, Colombia will legalize cocaine, its just a matter of when.
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Well, it might be a small step forward in the fight for cannabis legalization, but the recent UN vote on WHO recommendations only saw one positive measure taken. While being removed from schedule IV, cannabis remains schedule I according to the UN.
If you read most of the headlines, you’d think there was a massive step forward taken today in the fight to legalize cannabis, or at least have it taken seriously for its medical properties. But if you read a little closer, the end result is really not as great as it originally sounds to be. Yes, cannabis might no longer be schedule IV of the Single Convention, but it’s still sitting pretty at the top of both scheduling treaties.
UN drug scheduling
In 1961, negotiations were made between different countries of the world to come up with a treaty called the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances. Ten years later, yet another scheduling set was presented, this was called the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. These two treaties set basic guidelines for the international legality of certain drugs, but leave individual countries to come up with their own policies, though they must keep in line with the treaties (or, at least, they’re supposed to). As of 2018, 186 governments had signed the Single Convention on Narcotics treaty, though this does not give all of them the ability to vote.
The following are the two treaties, and their scheduling groups, prior to the vote:
Single Convention on Narcotic Substances:
I – Addictive drugs with a high risk for abuse (group contains cannabis and heroine).
II – Medical substances with a low risk for abuse.
III – Preparations that are made from substances in schedule II, and those that use cocaine.
IV – The most dangerous drugs listed in schedule I, these are considered very harmful and with no substantial medical or therapeutic value. (This group contains cannabis).
Single Convention on Psychotropic Substances:
I – Substances which pose a major threat to public health, with a high risk of abuse, and which are considered to have no substantial therapeutic value. This group includes THC (but not the whole cannabis plant).
II – Substances which pose a major threat to public health, with a risk of abuse, and which are considered to have only a low to moderate therapeutic value.
III – Substances which pose a major threat to public health, with a risk of abuse, and which are considered to have a moderate to high therapeutic value.
IV – Substances which pose a minor threat to public health, with a risk of abuse, and which are considered to have a high therapeutic value.
What were the recommendations?
WHO – or the World Health Organization, is the arm of the UN which is responsible for global public health measures. In 2019, after the WHO Expert Committee’s 41st meeting, a few different recommendations were made about how cannabis is scheduled. A vote was originally postponed in spring of 2019 by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs when it met for its 62nd meeting. This was to make sure that voting countries had more time to prepare and understand the information at hand. It was postponed again earlier this year, with a new date set for today.
While the WHO can make recommendations to the existing treaty, actually amending it is done by the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The recommendations given by WHO concerning cannabis, were as follows:
5.1 – Remove cannabis and cannabis resin from schedule IV of the Single Convention.
5.2.1 – The addition of Dronabinol (and stereoisomers) to schedule I of the Single Convention.
5.2.2 – If previous recommendation is adopted, the removal of Dronabinol (and stereoisomers) from schedule II of the 1971 Convention.
If 5.2.1 is adopted, the addition of THC to schedule I of the Single Convention.
5.4 – Remove cannabis extracts and tinctures from schedule I of the Single Convention.
5.5 – The addition of a footnote in schedule I of the Single Convention to ‘cannabidiol preparations’, which reads, “Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol and not more than 0.2 per cent of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol are not under international control.”
5.6 – “Add preparations containing dronabinol, produced either by chemical synthesis or as preparations of cannabis that are compounded as pharmaceutical preparations with one or more other ingredients and in such a way that dronabinol cannot be recovered by readily available means or in a yield which would constitute a risk to public health, to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention.”
A thing to notice before getting into the outcome of the recommendations… If someone thought there was a chance of getting cannabis completely out of there, this would be very much mistaken. Even in the best case scenario, THC would still be schedule I in the Single Convention, and that would keep it in the same class as heroin.
As stated before, there are 186 countries that have signed the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances treaty. However, this does not give them all voting rights. The vote took place in Vienna, and consisted of 53 member countries that had the right to vote.
In short, only one recommendation was taken, 5.1, the removal of cannabis and cannabis resins from schedule IV of the Single Convention, opening it up for legal medical use. That means cannabis remains schedule I according to the Single Convention, and leaves THC in schedule I of the 1971 Convention. Essentially, all that really happened is that it opened the door more for the medical industry, which had really become a necessity considering how many countries were already breaking code. This vote might be touted by the press as a major win for the cannabis industry, but in reality, it’s more of a blow. This was a chance to really change how the plant is used, and the only thing that happened is that a formal clearance was given for what is already going on.
As far as the one measure that did pass, the vote was extremely close, highlighting, I suppose, why the other measures failed. It passed with a vote of 27-25 with one abstention.
There really aren’t many, to be honest. While many headlines blare news about the UN making cannabis officially a ‘less dangerous’ drug, that didn’t really happen because in reality, cannabis remains schedule I. In fact, the only thing that happened is the UN played catch-up with what is already going on, and what is not likely to stop. If the UN hadn’t passed that measure, it would officially make every country with a medical program in violation….which they technically already were. That one recommendation was a save-face for the UN, and since medical cannabis has been implemented all over the globe despite both conventions, it didn’t really matter anyway. It also means there isn’t going to be a drastic change. Individual governments are still tasked with making their own drug laws, with places like China reinforcing that it will maintain its tight restrictions.
One implication that does come out of it is that CBD will not be any further clarified. CBD oil is often in gray area because it can’t easily be produced without some trace amount of THC. Recommendation 5.5 would have shed some further light on the situation, but it was roundly rejected along with the other measures, leaving CBD to stay in the gray.
Some might find this to be a win for the cannabis industry, and the fight for legalization, however, I see this as a major loss. This vote shows how many countries are still in favor of unnecessarily harsh regulation, and resistant to new information, or change. This vote goes to show just how far behind much of the world is.
One of the interesting things about a vote like this, is that its obviously going to leave some people (or countries) unhappy with the outcome. The UN functions because countries buy into it, but no one ever said they had to. It’s just like the issue of Brexit. If too much is pushed, countries might very well leave. If not enough is done, a different set will be angered. I wonder if the UN might have lost members if the vote had gone differently. For now, anyway, cannabis remains schedule I, and who knows when that will change.
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