Cannabis is very popular, and becoming more popular by the minute as more states and countries legalize it for medicinal and recreational use. So much has changed for cannabis, but not in the opinion of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The World Health Organization has not changed its opinion on cannabis since 1939.
According to the Scientist, 182 million people across the globe use cannabis. Why then does the World Health Organization have no opinion on the rising popularity of the herb?
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The WHO – the absent parent
Since the inception of international regulatory controls on cannabis eight decades ago, a lot has changed for cannabis. For example, the endocannabinoid system was discovered because of cannabis research. Yet, cannabis is still a schedule 1 substance judged in the same category as heroin or LSD. After all the global change, and all the center-stage attention cannabis has received, the one organization which should be involved and at the forefront of either supporting or objecting, is not involved at all.
California carries weight in revenue
California recently joined ranks with many states and countries choosing not to abide by the outdated international rules reinforced by the archaic scheduling. More lenient policies are to be adopted to allow regulated use of cannabis, be it medical or recreational.
The state of California gives leverage to legalization as it also recently took fifth rank amongst the most affluent economies in the world, outshining the UK.
UN member states look to the WHO for evidence about the health risks associated with drugs so that they can formulate drug control strategies, international policies and treaties. The WHO appears more and more aloof and absent on the subject of medical cannabis. Thus, the UN still supports the outdated idea of cannabis being an entry-level drug leading to hardcore drugs, even though this theory has been discredited completely.
Cannabis can’t be ignored much longer
It is no longer as if cannabis doesn’t matter. A survey conducted in 25 countries showed alcohol and cigarettes are becoming less popular with teenagers, but cannabis use is on the rise. Regulation is therefore becoming critical. Current scheduling doesn’t hold water, as cannabis clearly doesn’t do any harm to millions of people using it. Cannabis being illegal and sold illegally only forces users to support organized crime and break the law.
Change is needed
Experts agree something must change, but there is no agreement on what change should look like, as every country has its own political and economic rationale to regulate marijuana use. The Beckley Foundation proposes some guidelines which are flexible and could be adapted.
The Beckley Foundation and the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs also urged the WHO to conduct a critical review on the scheduling of cannabis.
But what should change look like?
The best scenario would be if UN member states requested such a review from the WHO on insights gathered, and also funded the work to be done. It would be politically “safe”, as it would be a critical review of evidence, rather than taking a particular stance on policy or reform.
The WHO could simplify it all
The World Health Organization’s purpose is to hold global health as its main concern, and influence member states’ decisions to the benefit all people through providing expert input. The UN could be encouraged by the WHO to review the scheduling of cannabis. A huge chunk of the billions spent on the war on cannabis could be diverted towards providing medicine.
The WHO could make a difference to millions of people using cannabis by reconsidering the current status of international scheduling, which will lessen the harm caused socially when people are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. Advocates say that cannabis could solve hunger, disease and pollution, replace fossil fuels, clear radiation and even feed the birds! Shouldn’t that make those in charge of the world’s health think twice?