As recently reported by Hemp Industry Daily, the WHO’s initiative to exempt plant-derived CBD products that contain less than 0.2% THC from international control under the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs could be a difficult modification to enforce.
In early 2019, the WHO issued various statements in favor of reviewing the way in which cannabis is currently classified in the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971. The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs has gone public as for its intention to proceed to vote on the recommendations this December 2020. Therefore, the Vienna-based INCB carried out an analysis of what impact these six recommendations could have in various U.N. member countries. The INCB is an independent and “quasi-judicial” entity supervising the implementation of the U.N. narcotics conventions. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) noted how authorities in certain countries may not be equipped with the necessary technology or manpower to analyze the cannabinoid profile of CBD products – and this information would be vital and necessary to guarantee compliance with the proposed exemption.
Of the six proposed scheduling changes, the most relevant for products containing plant-derived cannabidiol are Recommendation 5.4 and 5.5. Cannabidiol is not explicitly listed in international drug control treaties, but it is nonetheless included the 1961 convention, as a “preparation” and as an “extract or tincture” of marijuana.
Recommendation 5.4 argues for the deletion the “extracts and tinctures” category from Schedule I of the 1961 convention to reduce redundancy and repetition, while 5.5 suggests to add a footnote to the cannabis entry in the 1961 treaty, to specify that preparations that contain “predominantly” CBD and up to 0.2% THC should not fall under international control. This second recommendation stems from the WHO’s conclusion that CBD extracts do not have the risk of addiction or margin for abuse that the other substances mentioned in the treaties have.
These recommendations by the WHO have been received and welcomed from the medical marijuana and hemp industries, as a positive step toward the easing of the international control of cannabis. However, the main issue with them, according to the INCB, would be their “practical implementation at the national level”, because in most countries, conducting chemical analysis to the threshold indicated in the recommendation could not be possible. Besides the lack of access to this type of scientific technology for certain countries, the INCB manifested concerns even for those nations that would not have that type of problem, questioning whether this could be considered a smart resource expenditure.
Furthermore, the INCB also has worries in regards to the cultivation of cannabis cultivated with the purpose of CBD extraction. The board of INCB considers CBD would require monitoring, considering it does not meet the definition of cultivation for ‘industrial purpose’. When the cultivation of cannabis takes place with the goal of producing flowers, “then it should be considered under control regardless of the THC or CBD content”, said the President of INCB.