The Food and Drug Administration has officially put out a call for public comments on cannabis, THC and CBD to bring to the World Health Organization later this year.
This call for public comment is just a single step in a years-long process of the WHO considering a change in its cannabis policy. The United States is a signee of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. That means that when the WHO notifies the U.S. under Article 2 of the convention that it has information that may warrant a substance being added to the control list or having a current schedule changed, the Secretary of State must send the notice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. On Monday, this procedure was kicked into action, and a notice was published in the Federal Register, the daily bulletin of the federal government, calling for experts to submit comments on cannabis. All of those comments are supposed to contribute to the final U.S. testimony prepared by HHS. In this case, experts have two weeks to submit their testimony.
The reason the WHO put out the call for input is because the 40th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence will convene for a special session later this year. The committee will examine the current status of cannabis on its potential to cause dependence, abuse and harm to health, as well as its therapeutic applications. The WHO will then make recommendations to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on whether there is a need for international control of these substances.
The expert committee has been working on reviewing cannabis over the last three years.
At their 37th meeting, they requested the collection of data that would go towards a pre-review of cannabis, cannabis resin, extracts and tinctures of cannabis at a future meeting. Following the request, the WHO went on to commission two updates on the scientific literature for cannabis and cannabis resin, which were prepared and presented in 2016.
In those meetings, some of the main takeaways were that the organization is concerned about scheduling the entirety of the cannabis plant under one category, that there has been an increase in the use of cannabis and its components for medical purposes, and that the emergence of new cannabis-related pharmaceutical preparations for therapeutic use will impact the decision.
Monday’s FDA announcement hit a lot of the U.S. government’s usual cannabis talking points. It reminded everyone that the FDA has not approved any product made from the whole plant form of cannabis, including CBD, but substitutes like Marinol are available to people with appetite issues as a result of AIDS or chemotherapy. As for CBD, the announcement states it is being looked at for a variety of medical purposes in various clinical settings, but no FDA-approved CBD medications are on the market.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project‘s Senior Communications Director Morgan Fox, the pro-marijuana organization will be filing their evidence with the FDA, but in the end, he expects the final package that the U.S. government will take to the WHO will back the current state of federal marijuana policy.
While this all sounds America-centric on our end, the impact on the global cannabis community could be huge. Most of the 182 million cannabis users cited in the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime 2017 World Drug Report live under the risk of being criminalized for their use. The WHO and UN pushing back on that trend could be a massive development.
All electronic and written comments are required to be filed with the Department of Health and Human Services by April 23.
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