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Geneva, 7th June 2018.

On the year of its 70th birthday, the World Health Organization (WHO) is finally taking steps to repair an injustice that it co-created: the affirmation that Cannabis had no medical value, based on biased scientific processes, as a ground for global prohibition of traditional and recreational uses of Cannabis, as well as severe restrictions to medical access and research.

This week in Geneva, for the first time ever, the WHO drugs committee has heard the voices of doctors, patients, and researchers, and has started to analyze and weigh the harms and benefits of Cannabis for health neutrally.  Their conclusions are likely to change international law and impact home policies globally.

The NGO FAAAT think & do tank has been working to facilitate and broaden the interactions, dialogue, and inputs between WHO, civil society, and governments. For this event, we coordinated a Joint Civil Society Statement to the Experts[1] endorsed by 106 NGOs from 35 countries in all continents. Among them are organizations of scientists, doctors, human rights, affected populations, patients, students, users or addiction professionals.

This contribution criticizes the numerous bias found in the preparatory process and the documentation of the 40th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) meeting.

106 organizations have endorsed the statement, 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. The full list is visible unfolding the box below:

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

Beyond those regrettable bias, the ECDD Experts were given a broad and complete overview of the challenges, threats or human rights violations provoked by the current regulatory framework surrounding Cannabis.

Among the stakeholders present at the Monday hearing[2], all pointed out the barriers to access for therapeutical purposes or the disproportionate impact of criminal justice measures that derivates from the current Scheduling, particularly over minorities and women.

However, series of technical issues made difficult a real concentration of the Experts on some statements, betraying the known heaviness of the “Organization” and its difficulties in preparing an event of such historical importance.

Some history.

In the 1950’s, with irrelevant, partial, and biased data, the WHO gave the green light to the inclusion of Cannabis in the strictest United Nations’ drug control Schedules[3]. These Schedules classify Cannabis and its derivatives as “particularly liable to abuse and to provide ill effects” and with “no or very few therapeutic effects.”

But a real formal scientific review of Cannabis has never been done – although the WHO, by mandate, has been responsible since the 1960’s for undertaking risk assessments of all drugs that have dependence or abuse potential[4], and furthermore mandated since the 2000’s for updating its reviews every 20 years.

These assessments are carried out utilizing a thorough review of all relevant existing data about the drug under consideration, including state of the art scientific evidence, but also field data, pre-clinical research, and even documented patients experiences. In charge of these assessments are the WHO’s independent ECDD Experts[5], who issue recommendations on whether the drug (plant or substance) under review should be placed under international control or not, and which should be the appropriate Schedule to recommend[1].

Until two years ago, the WHO has been stifling attempts of the ECDD to review Cannabis, thus maintaining the prohibitionist status-quo and the absence of recognition of the medicinal applications of Cannabis and cannabinoids internationally. Every time they were bounded to bring Cannabis on the agenda, WHO officials placed it under the “update” agenda item – the lowest possible level of debate, not leading to any assessment, and without policy implication. Worse yet, the content of these updates was subject to strong criticism from part of civil society[6].

In 2016, after considerable effort from members of the scientific community, governments, and organized civil society, the WHO finally decided to launch the process of reviewing Cannabis. In November 2017, the Committee met to discuss various issues, several harmful new psychoactive substances, but also Pre-reviewed Cannabidiol (CBD) as a first step (Pre-review[4]) in the complex issue of Cannabis and its derivatives. The Committee arrived at the preliminary conclusions that CBD is a particularly safe substance with promising therapeutic applications and that “current information does not […] justify scheduling of the substance.”

 

Last year in November, FAAAT had joined efforts with the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA)[7] to present a statement on this occasion.

This week, at last, the WHO convened a special 40th meeting of its Expert Committee[8] entirely dedicated to Cannabis, for the first time. While the Committee addressed the final part of the process for CBD (Critical review[4]), they just begun with the most funny part, undertaking the preliminary Pre-review process for “Cannabis“, “Cannabis resin”, “Cannabis extracts”, “tinctures of Cannabis“, “∂-9-THC” and “Isomers of THC”.

The 4 days meeting began Monday 4th June, with an afternoon of hearing testimony from MDs, patients, and researchers, and ended today. Other international institutions known for their critical views over medicinal Cannabis such as the INCB (International Narcotics Control Board) were present[9]. The outcome of their work will not be known for  several weeks, and formally presented to all the countries of the United Nations during December’s reconvened session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs[10].

To the exception of CBD, and unless a last minute dramatic switch happens (common for the WHO system), the process is expected to continue forward to a Critical review that could very well turn into a change of scheduling under the drug control Conventions, for Cannabis and (or) its derivatives[11].

FAAAT think & do tank (a non-profit NGO only funded with your finantial support) will continue following the issue and pushing the WHO towards the most robust, credible and evidence-based standards concerning Cannabis policies, starting this Saturday 10th with a discussion with officials of the WHO ECDD Secretariat, in Geneva[12]. And of course, all information will continue to be updated on www.faaat.net/cannabis

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