Following a recommendation from the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ Commission for Narcotic Drugs voted Wednesday to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a decision that is expected to eventually have a far-reaching impact on marijuana research and medical use throughout the world.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, cannabis and cannabis resin had been listed alongside drugs such as heroin, methadone, morphine, opium and cocaine.
The UN Commission for Narcotic Drugs includes 53 member states, and the vote on cannabis reclassification was very close, passing by a 27 to 25 margin (with an abstention from Ukraine).
The United States and the vast majority of European nations voted in favour.
China, Pakistan and Russia were among the countries that were opposed to the reclassification.
The commission also considered five other recommendations (such as placing specific THC pharmaceutical preparations in Schedule III of the 1961 treaty), but none of the other five garnered enough support to pass.
“Something like this does not mean that legalization is just going to happen around the world,” said Jessica Steinberg, managing director at the cannabis consulting firm Global C, but, she added, “It could be a watershed moment.”
Four U.S. states (New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona) voted to legalise recreational cannabis in last month’s elections, which brings the total number of states which have legalized recreational cannabis use to 15. Two other states (Mississippi and South Dakota) voted to make medical marijuana legal, bringing that total to 35. According to the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans said they supported the legalisation of cannabis, either for both medical and recreational use or solely for medical use.
$34 billion. The market for medical and recreational marijuana is projected to increase to more than $34 billion by 2025, according to analysts at the investment bank Cowen.