Cannabis within the international drug
Treaty classification: Towards descheduling!

In 2018 for the first time ever, the World Health Organization is assessing the medical uses and harms of Cannabis sativa L., and will recommend the suitable scheduling to be applied internationally. We promote an objective and independent assessment, that recognizes and acknowledges modern research on Cannabis.


On July 23rd, the Director-General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (known as Dr Tedros), sent a Note Verbale to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres. The purpose was to inform him of the outcome of the 40th meeting of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) held June 2018, that was dedicated to the scientific assessment of Cannabis and its related products (click on the image to read it). Guterres forwarded the letter to all countries Member of the 1961 and 1971 Conventions on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

An important part of our remarks and recommendations (delivered in the Joint Statement to the Experts, see below) were acknowledged by the Experts, and most of the weaknesses and bias in the preparation process seem to have been overcome.

Even though Cannabidiol has been recommended for non-inclusion in the Treaties’s schedules, the journey is not over.

The next step will be the 41st ECDD from 12th to 16th November 2018, where the final part of the assessment (Critical review) will be undertaken by the Experts. They are likely to issue recommendations for lowering the scheduling status of Cannabis, Cannabis resin, Cannabis extracts and tinctures (including CBD-rich extracts), THC and THC isomers.

The final step is expected for March 2019, when the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs will adopt or reject the recommendations of the WHO ECDD.

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UPDATE 7th JUNE 2018

On the occasion of the 40th meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) dedicated to the scientific assessment of Cannabis and its related products, we delivered a Joint Statement to the Experts, underlining gross bias in the preparation process of the meeting.

106 civil society organizations from 35 countries in all continents (full list below) have endorsed the contribution. Among them are scientists, doctors, human rights, affected populations, patients, students, users or addiction professionals organizations. They come from Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech republic, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Santa Lucia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, United States of America and Zimbabwe.

Click here to read the statement.

List of the 106 Civil Society Organizations endorsing the Joint Contribution to ECDD40: Procedural, methodological and terminological bias.


Country Name of the organization Short name
The Netherlands
Alliance for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition Verbond voor Opheffing van het Cannabisverbod VOC
Americans for Safe Access ASA
Anti-prohibitionist Liason Liaison Antiprohibitionniste
Aragon Federation of Cannabis Users Associations Federación de Asociaciones Cannabicas de Aragón ARAFAC
Argentinian Cannabis Organizations Front Frente de Organizaciones Cannábicas Argentinas FOCA
Asociación Cañamera Manuel Belgrano
Asociación Civil Cannabicultores de la Cordillera Chubutense ACCC
Asociación Civil Cogollos del Oeste
Asociación Civil Rosarina de Estudios Culturales
Asociación Cultural Jardín del Unicornio
Asociación Edith Moreno Cogollos Cordoba
Association of Victims of State Crimes Asociacion de Victimas de Crimenes de Estado
Australian Medical Cannabis Council
Austrian Cannabis Network
Basque country Federation of Cannabis Users Associations Federación de Asociaciones Cannabicas de Euskadi EUSFAC
Beckley Foundation
Bolivian Students for Sensible Drug Policies Estudiantes por una Política Sensata de Drogas Bolivia EPSD Bolivia
Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy CSSDP
Cannabis and health Cannabis y Salud
Cannabis Impatient Patiens Pazienti impazienti Cannabis PIC
Cannabis In Action TV CIA-TV
Czech republic
Cannabis War is Over campaign
Cannabis Without Borders Cannabis Sans Frontières CSF
Trinidad and Tobago
Caribbean Collective for Justice CCJ
Santa Lucia
Caribbean Drug & Alcohol Research Institute
Center of Excellence in Harm Reduction and Dependency
Civil Association for the study of natural therapies against epilepsy and associated pathologies HYGIA HYGIA Asociación Civil para el estudio de terapias naturales contra la epilepsia y patologías asociadas
Colombian Cannabis Entrepreneurs Network Red de Emprendedores Cannabicos de Colombia RECC
Costa Rica
Costa Rican Association on Drug Studies and Interventions Asociación Costarricense de Estudios e Intervención en Drogas ACEID
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation CJPF
Cultivando Con Ciencia
Cultivo en familia
Die Linke party - Drug policies section LAG Drogenpolitik NDS von die linke
DRCNet Foundation DRCnet
ECHO Citoyen
Ethio-Afro Diaspora Unity Millennium Council EADUMC
European Coalition for just and effective drug policies ENCOD
European Industrial Hemp Association EIHA
El Salvador
Evangelical Protestant Church of El Salvador Iglesia Evangélica Protestante de El Salvador IEPES
Federation of Cannabis Users Associations Federación de Asociaciones Cannabicas FAC
South Africa
Fields of Green for All
For Alternative Approaches to Addiction, think & do tank FAAAT think & do tank
Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards FOCUS
French-speaking Union for Cannabinoid Medicines Union Francophone pour les Cannabinoïdes en Médecine UFCM-Icare
Fundación Renovatio
Green Help Network Grüne Hilfe Netzwerk
Help Not Handcuffs
Help Not Harm
Hemp Industries Association HIA
Hemp Institute Hanf Institute
Hemp Museum Hanf Museum
Human Rights Program "Dreamt Patry" Programa DD.HH "Patria Soñada"
Hungarian Medical Cannabis Association Magyar Orvosi Kannabisz Egyesület
Iliosporoi Network ηλιοσπορος
International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service ICEERS
International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition IMCPC
Israeli Green Leaf Party Ale Yarok
Kannabio social hemp cooperative Kanabio Κοινωνικη Συνεταιριστικη Επιχειρηση
Knowmad Institute
Czech republic
KOPAC Patient Organization for Cannabis Medicines Pacientský Spolek pro Léčbu Konopím KOPAC
El Salvador
La María Guanaca
Latino America Reforma
Czech republic
The Netherlands
Legalize Europe
Madawa Addiction and Health Care Organisation
Mamá Cultiva
Mama Cultiva Asociación Civil
Medical Cannabis Users Association of Argentina Asociación Para Usuarios de Cannabis Medicinal APUCaM
Mexican Students for Sensible Drug Policies Estudiantes por una Política Sensata de Drogas Mexico EPSD Mexico
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies MAPS
Museum of Sacred, Magical and Medicinal Plants Museo de Plantas Sagradas, Magicas y Medicinales
National Cannabicultors Federation Federación Nacional de Cannabicultores
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws France NORML France
Patients Out of Time POT
People Who Use Drugs' Selfsupport Organization Auto Support des Usager.e.s de Drogues ASUD
Piaget Agency for Development Agência Piaget para o Desenvolvimento APDES
Plantemos Libres
Por Grace Asociación Civil
Revista Haze
Romand Group for Addiction Studies Groupement Romand d'Étude des Addictions GREA
Seed Action Acción Semilla
Solidary Growers Argentina Cultivadores Solidarios Argentina
Solidary Growers of Argentina Cultivadores Solidarios Argentina
Spain Responsible Regulation platform Regulación Responsable España
Spanish Observatory for Medicinal Cannabis Observatorio Español del Cannabis Medicinal OECM
Students for Sensible Drug Policy SSDP
Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ireland SSDP Ireland
Swiss Safe Access for Cannabinoids SSAC
Themis Collective Collectif Thémis
Union of Cannabis Oils and Creams Producers Unión de Productores de Aceites y Cremas de Cannabis UPACC
United Cannabis Entrepreneurs of Argentina Emprendedores Cannábicos Unidos de Argentina ECUA
Users’ Voice
Veterans Ending The Stigma VETS
Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access VMCA
Veterinary Medical Cannabis Cannabis Medical Veterinario CANNVET
Virginians Against Drug Violence
Women and Cannabis Mujeres y Cannabis MyCA
Zimbabwe Civil Liberties & Drug Network

In June 2018, the 40th meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) will review Cannabis plant, resin, extracts, tinctures, CBD, THC and its isomers, and possibly recommend changes in the international scheduling of these Cannabis preparations or products. In November 2017, Cannabidiol (CBD) was already preliminarily addressed by the WHO.

Worldwide, cannabis (or marijuana) is considered by legislations as one of the most dangerous “narcotic drugs”, often regulated similarly to heroin and cocaine and considered equal in terms of harms and lack of medical uses.

This undue scheduling was slowly built with an obscure process that started in 1925, and that ended in 1961 with the inscription of Cannabis and its derivates at the highest possible level of restrictive State control measures. Since 1961, almost every single country has been following this scheduling, placing cannabis and cannabis-based medicines and health products under the strictest national regulations, blocking availability and access for medical patients and for researchers, making almost impossible legal production, trade, or quality certifications, and creating de facto an almost total prohibition of cannabis, thus generating countless collateral harms.

Unlike every other drug submitted to international restrictions, Cannabis has never been scientifically assessed between 1925 and 1961, when it was included at first in the international schedules of the treaties. It has neither been reassessed after the discovery in 1964 of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main active molecule of cannabis. And since 1964, even though dozens of new clinical applications were evidenced by research, no further scientific review of the plant and its compounds was undertaken.

While cannabis is still officially considered by the international law as the worst of all poisons in 2018, the situation will hopefully change with the reviews undertaken by the WHO.

* * *

The UN General Assembly, in a Special Session focused on drugs (UNGASS 2016) recognized the need of a renewed, balanced and scientific evidence-based approach towards the international scheduling system, by reaffirming the treaty-mandated role of WHO, but also resolving to “[support] scientific evidence-based review and scheduling of the most prevalent, persistent and harmful substances” as well as calling for “informed and coordinated scheduling decisions”.

In November 2016, after decades burying its head in the sand, the WHO (World Health Organization) finally decided to set up special meetings of experts, in order to decide the place that ought to be appointed for cannabis and its derivates within the schedules of the international drug control conventions.

Our team, in a joint effort with academics, experts, physicians, patients, and NGOs, is firmly committed to ensuring transparency, independence and comprehensiveness of the review process, while bringing awareness around the international scheduling of cannabis and cannabis medicinal products.

It is time to advocate for a concrete change of paradigm in the international drug control system, towards  an evidence-based approach to drug policies, starting with the long overdue scientific assessment of the most used and one of the less harmful substances: Cannabis, still scheduled today as a substance liable to abuse and highly addictive, with particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic values (Schedules I and IV of the 1961 Single Convention).

Research and contextual analysis.

The international drug control treaty system, which considers cannabis as one of the drugs with the highest potential of harm and the least medical usefulness, hasn’t changed since 1961. While the current classification of cannabis in the treaty is, almost unbelievably, from an outdated and obscure evidentiary process conducted before 1961, no scientific evidence-based process have been led to assess cannabis and classify it in the right schedule since that date. It is important to recognize the extreme complexity of international drug policy related to substance scheduling, but also its primary and central role in the prohibition regime, and its impact on day-to-day practices and local policies.

The process of Critical Review (more info below), the only one able to change the status of cannabis within the treaties schedules, is a routine internal process of the World Health Organization (WHO), supposed to be the only and easiest way to reform medical marijuana’ status in the treaty. It has however been repeatedly blocked since the adoption of the 1961 Single Convention on narcotic drugs, while it could and should have happened long ago.

One of our first task have been to clear and enlighten the reality of the hidden historical processes and political influences that have led to the current scheduling of cannabis under the international drug control system. That process started in 1925 with the inclusion of so-called “Indian hemp” in the by-then “anti-opium” treaties, that was supposed to be supported by a mysterious scientific assessment from 1935, and was finally decided between 1953 and 1961 by the diplomats preparing the text of the 1961 Single Convention. This history (about which most of the archives have disappeared) hides many key elements that need to be revealed and known, about both the process that led to the scheduling of cannabis (1925-1961), and the obstacles that appeared against the critical review since then (1961-2016).

Advocacy and prospective.

Changing or removing cannabis from its actual place within the strictest schedule (meaning the strictest control measures) will have profound effects on increasing room and opportunities for medical research, access and supply, as well as easing off the pressure against reform, at the country level.

Finally in November 2016, after 3 years of intense and continued advocacy and pressure on the WHO, the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD, an independant group of scientists whom secretariat is handled by the WHO) decided to start again the process of collecting data and outcomes of researches, to study again the case of “Cannabis and Cannabis resin” and its scheduling within the international drug control treaties schedules. After decades of research and years of advocacy, the undue pre-review and critical review of cannabis will finally happen, with May 2018 as a deadline.

Therefore, the process is not finished, and actions must be taken in order to (1) provide the accurate information on achieved and ongoing medical cannabis researches, and ensure that all relevant data is submitted, duly received and acknowledged by the experts (2) ensure that no internal blockage of the process will happen within the WHO, (3) make sure that the recommendations of the Experts are not undermined by political pressure and (4) ensure a vote of the Experts recommendations by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

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Information documents.

The schedules

Schedules of the international drug control conventions.

Crimson paper #1

The committee

Basics about the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence of the WHO.

Crimson paper #2

The review(s)

Pre- and Critical review: insights into the processes and procedures of the WHO scientific abuse liability assessment for drugs.

Crimson paper #3

The main fact sheet on the process

Version 3, March 2018

Crimson fact sheet #1

4 pages.

Members of the ECDD

Version 2, March 2018.

Crimson fact sheet #2

2 pages.

Members of the CND

Version 2, March 2018

Crimson fact sheet #3

2 pages.

Selected advocacy documents.

Contribution to the 40th ECDD:Critical review of Cannabidiol, Pre-review of Cannabis, resin, extracts, tinctures, THC and isomers.

Joint civil society contribution to the 40th WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence evaluation of Cannabis and its related products and substances – June 4th – 7th,  2018.

Contribution to the pre-review of Cannabidiol

Joint EIHA-FAAAT contribution to the 39th WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence evaluation of Cannabidiol (CBD) – November 6th 2017.

Letter to WHO demanding the review of cannabis

Summary of the online advocacy action undertaken in autumn 2016, to put in the agenda of the ECDD the review of Cannabis and its derivates.

Support & take action!

Support advocacy on cannabis treaty scheduling issues. Donate.


Below is the agenda for past and upcoming actions to follow up and research the subject of substance scheduling under the international drug control conventions, in particular regarding Cannabis.

March 2019
62nd regular session of the Commission on Narcotic Drug (CND)
Upcoming action
Novembre 2018
62nd regular session of the CND
Upcoming action
Novembre 2018
41st meeting of the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug dependence (ECDD)
Upcoming action
October 2018
UN General Assembly Committee C discussions on drug policy
Upcoming action
June 2018
40th meeting of the WHO ECDD, special meeting dedicated to pre-reviews of Cannabis-related substances and critical review of CBD-type Cannabis extracts
Actions undertaken: presence, advocacy, critical document on the errors in the preparation process submitted to the Experts of WHO.
May 2018
71st World Health Assembly
Actions undertaken: presence, advocacy, outreach.
March 2018
61st regular session of the CND
Actions undertaken: Multilateral meetings, networking & advocacy actions towards UN officials and Member States.
Decembre 2017
39th meeting of the WHO ECDD, with the pre-review of CBD.
Actions undertaken: Outcome of the 39th ECDD and Countries outreach.
Novembre 2017
39th meeting of the WHO ECDD
Actions undertaken: Coordination of stakeholders statements, written and oral communications to the Experts, presence, networking & advocacy actions towards WHO civil servants.
Septembre 2017
Intersessional meeting of the 60th CND
Actions undertaken: Follow-up.
March 2017
60th regular session of the CND
Actions undertaken: Presence, networking & advocacy actions towards UN officials and Member States.
Dec. 2016
Reconvened 59th session CND
Actions undertaken: Presence, networking & advocacy actions towards UN officials and Member States.
Nov. 2016
38th meeting of the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD)
Actions undertaken: Written communication to the WHO's officials, presence, networking & advocacy actions towards UN officials and Member States.
Nov. 2016
World Health Organization Library and Archives
Actions undertaken: Research
Oct. 2016
59th CND intersessionnal meetings on the post-UNGASS process.
Click to see the actions undertaken (Written statement and communication)

Reassessing substances: one proposed reading of the UNGASS 2016 outcome document.

Contribution to the post-UNGASS 2016 thematic debates organized by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, on October 10th, 11th, 27th and 28th 2016. This contribution has been posted online on the website of the UNODC and can be downloaded on our own website (only in English).

May 2016
69th World Health Assembly
Actions undertaken: Presence, networking & post-UNGASS advocacy actions towards UN officials and Member States.
May 2016
United Nations office in Geneva’s Library & League of Nations Archives
Actions undertaken: Research.
April 2016
30th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the ‘World drug problem’ – UNGASS 2016
Actions undertaken: Presence, networking & advocacy actions towards UN officials and Member States.
March 2016
59th regular session of the CND
Actions undertaken: Presence, follow-up of the negotiations of the UNGASS outcome document, networking & pre-UNGASS advocacy actions towards UN officials and Member States.
Nov. 2015
37th meeting of the WHO’s ECDD
Actions undertaken: Oral statement to the members of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, presence & advocacy actions.
March 2015
International Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids conference: “Policy, Science, and Medical Practice”
Action undertaken: Involvement in the foundation of IMCPC (International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition)
March 2007
50th regular session of the CND
Actions undertaken: Presence, follow-up of the dronabinol (THC) proposed descheduling vote.

FAAAT (For Alternative Approaches to Addiction - Think & do tank) is an international advocacy and research program of the DRCnet Foundation.

FAAAT addresses the policies of addiction, controlled and illicit drugs, and plants, products or substances liable to produce harms or dependence. We work with a multidisciplinary, transnational, non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit perspective.

FAAAT centralizes the collaboration of a global network of experts, with quarters in Austria, Czechia, France, Mexico, Spain and the USA.

FAAAT think-tank researches rigorous evidence-based and ethical policy alternatives to face political, economic, and social drug- and addiction-related issues. Our research advocates for transparent and measurable policies framed by fundamental civic and human rights and the rule of law, grounded on sustainable development, social justice and health, that empowers affected populations.

FAAAT do-tank develops collective support, capacity building and community advocacy programs headed to peer groups, ground social movements and the nonprofit sector, for a broader involvement in policy processes at all level, including international and multilateral levels. Our actions rely on social engineering and transversal work, merging affected populations, researchers, doctors, social workers, the law enforcement sector, policy-makers, and all relevant stakeholders.


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Evidence-based, democratic, transparent and measurable drug policies • framed by fundamental rights • grounded on sustainable development • empowering people and communities • and enhancing social justice and health.


Research rigorous and ethical policy alternatives • and take action through advocacy at all level, social engineering, partnership and collective action • to upgrade policies and practices.

DO TANK Goal #1.
Ground the updates of international drug policy on sustainable development, human rights, transparency, and inclusiveness.
Goal #4.
Strengthen peer groups, social movements and the nonprofit sector to increase knowledge, sustainability, effectiveness, and capacity for collective action on drug-related issues.
Impulsing a modern approach to the categorification of “drugs”: renew terminology, taxonomy & scheduling to review the biochemical paradigm of drug use.
Goal #2.
Shift drug policies towards evidence and effectiveness: enhancing positive drug-related programs and actions from the ground.

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