Updated: Jan 20, 2021
Cannabis, the sacred grass of Ancient India has been wrongfully demonized for a long time since the 1980s and has been considered an evil that can severely harm the society. Thankfully, in recent years there has been a shift in this narrative. Governments all across the globe have started realising and acknowledging the countless environmental, economic and health benefits of cannabis. A testimony to this is the recent decision of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the list of most dangerous substances in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. India too has voted to reclassify cannabis. We believe this new development will open up various avenues for cannabis on the industrial front while also being a huge step forward towards environmentalism.
UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
The Vienna-based CND is the UN agency mandated to decide on the scope of control of substances by placing them in the schedules of global drug control conventions. For 59 years, cannabis has been on Schedule IV–the most dangerous category, unjustly grouped together with deadly, addictive opioids including heroin. Bracketing cannabis and its resin with heroin and placing them under the same schedule has tarnished its image and has discouraged its use even for medicinal purposes.
However, global attitudes towards cannabis have changed dramatically. Many jurisdictions have now permitted the use of cannabis for recreation, medication or both, despite it remaining on Schedule IV of the UN list. As of now, over 50 countries allow medicinal cannabis programs, and its recreational use has been legalised in Canada, South Africa, Georgia Uruguay, 15 US states and is decriminalized in a number of other countries. The new international convention will hopefully bring about a change in perspective and will encourage other nations to review their laws regarding cannabis regulation too.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY?
The cannabis industry holds a lot of potential, however, that potential has been hindered due to strict laws and a narrow understanding of the plant. With the categorisation of cannabis as a less dangerous drug, it is believed that its medicinal and therapeutic potential can now be better explored and recognised. This landmark decision will pave the path for legalisation of medicinal marijuana in different countries and can also help governments to reconsider the recreational benefits of the drug. CND’s decision would add momentum to efforts for decriminalising cannabis in countries where its use is most restricted, while further legalising the herb in others. The reclassification of cannabis by the UN would not immediately change its status worldwide as long as individual countries continue with existing regulations but since many nations follow the lead of international protocols while legislating, we can expect to see some changes soon.
THE INDIAN CONTEXT
Since, international conventions do not automatically become part of the law in India, removing cannabis from the list of dangerous drugs will require an amendment in law. It remains to be seen whether the Indian Government will make any such amendments and how it will plan to regulate the use of cannabis. Experts believe that CND’s decision and India’s vote in the UN towards reclassifying cannabis will likely soften India’s stand on the matter too. While this international convention is a step forward, a long road still lies ahead.