Marijuana within the
international drug
treaties classification:
Towards descheduling


In 2018 for the first time, the World Health Organization is going to evaluate the medical usefulness and harms of Cannabis, and recommend the suitable classification to be applied within the narcotics schedules. Our joint-NGOs working group has been pushing for an objective assessment that recognizes Cannabis as an efficient, safe and profitable medicine for many medical affections. On this page, learn more about the process, and support our action!

In June 2018, the 40th meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence will review Cannabis plant, resin, extracts, tinctures, 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 addressed by the WHO.

Worldwide, cannabis (or marijuana) is considered by laws and policies among the worst “narcotic drugs”, equivalent in danger and lack of therapeutic usefulness to opium or cocaine.

This undue place within the illicit drugs classification 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 higest possible level of restrictive State control.

Since 1961, almost every single country has been following this scheduling, placing cannabis and cannabis-based medicines and health products within the strictest national laws, impeding a proper access, research, production, trade, and quality certifications, creating de facto a prohibition of cannabis, which generates the countless collateral harms that any prohibition generate.

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 scheduled of the international treaties. It has neither been reassessed after the discovery in 1964 of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main active molecule of cannabis (unknown before). And between 1961 and 2017, no scientific assessment of the actual dangerosity  neither after dozens of new clinical applications were evidenced by researchers around the planet.

While cannabis is still officially considered by the international law as the worst of all poisons in 2017, the situation needs a change.

The United Nations General Assembly, in the recent Special Session on the world drug problem (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 record a special meeting of experts, to decide the place that ought to be appointed for cannabis and its derivates.

Our Civil Society working and action group (under the nickname #ProCannabisTeam), in a joint effort with key academics, experts and organizations (including medical doctors and patients’ organizations), is firmly committed to accelerate the update of the international scheduling of cannabis and cannabis pharmaceutical preparations, and to work towards a change in the status of its scheduling.

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.

Upcoming actions

March 2018, 61st Commission on narcotic drugs — UN, Vienna

May 2018, 71st World Health Assembly — Palais des Nations, Geneva

June 2018, special civil society event —Palais des Nations, Geneva

June 2018, ECDD 40th special meeting dedicated to Cannabis — WHO, Geneva

Nov. 2018, ECDD 41st meeting —WHO, Geneva

Nov. 2018, UN General Assembly Committee C discussions on drugs — UN, New-York

Dec. 2018, reconvened 61st Commission on narcotic drugs — UN, Vienna

March 2019, 62nd Commission on narcotic drugs — UN, Vienna


Support the advocacy group on marijuana Treaty scheduling, make a donation:


Expert or specialist of Cannabis in your country? Answer the call for participation the WHO review international data collection:


Knowledge and advocacy 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 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.

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.

It is time to advocate for a concrete change of paradigm in the international drug control system, towards  an evidence-based approach to policies, starting with the long overdue Critical review 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).

Below are the actions undertaken to follow up and research the subject of substance scheduling, and in particular the possibilities of change in the scope of control of Cannabis through a change of its scheduling at the international treaty level:

Decembre 2017

Reconvened 60th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drug (CND)

Actions undertaken: Outcome of the 39th ECDD and Countries outreach.


Novembre 2017

39th meeting of the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug dependence (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.


Cannabis international review 2018: Take action!

Global specialists participation in the WHO 2018 data collection.

In 2018 for the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) is going to evaluate the medical uses and harms of Cannabis, and recommend the suitable classification to be applied.
The window for civil society involvement is very narrow. The main way of participating is by collecting series of data that will serve as a basis for the evaluation.

We have created this form for that purpose: gathering the expert and specialized people able to collect, in every country, objective and up-to-date data about the legal and illicit uses of Cannabis in their own country.

That data is aimed to be, afterward, compiled by our team and transmitted to the WHO through the national competent authorities.

Support the advocacy group on marijuana scheduling issues:


The team :

Farid Ghehiouèche

Farid Ghehiouèche

NORML France

  • Former head of national commission on drugs at French green Party (from 1998 to 2008);
  • Former ED of the NGO “Info Burma”;
  • Former chairman of ENCOD (the european coalition for just and effective drug policies) with which he helped conceptualize the concept of Cannabis Social Club;
  • Organizer of the Million Marijuana March in Paris since 2001;
  • Founder of the association Cannabis Without Borders, candidate to several elections in France under that label (European parliament in 2009 and 2014, MP elections in 2012, regional in 2015);
  • Co-founder, and Board member of NORML France since 2014 ;
  • Farid is a key public figure in the social and mediatic debate on cannabis policy reform in France;
  • Activist and international drug policy reform advocate for more than a decade in the international institutions, he has developped a special approach on the scheduling issues, as well as on the linked problematics of access to medicines and development issues in the so-called “producer countries” of the planet;
  • Head of advocacy at FAAAT.
Michael Krawitz

Michael Krawitz

Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access

  • Disabled US Air Force Veteran. Sergeant from 1981 to 1986, injured in Guam in an accident that was deemed “in the line of duty” although not combat related;
  • In 2010 his long fight inside the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for adequate access to pain management paid off with his negotiating the first ever medical cannabis policy within the VA;
  • Since 1995, he is deeply engaged towards international drug control systems, and attended the 1998 UNGASS on “the world drug problem”. Finding that there was little NGO participation, he has focused much of his work on increasing the involvement of civil society in the UN drug control system;
  • Michael brought important contributions to the “Beyond 2008” consultative process as well as the New York NGO Committee on Drugs;
  • Nowadays, he is member of the executive council of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs, board member of the International Alliance For Cannabis as Medicine and Director of Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access.
Kenzi Riboulet Zemouli

Kenzi Riboulet Zemouli

FAAAT think & do tank

  • Formerly activist in the Occitania region (south of France) with the drug-related health and social stakeholders, he has organized events and conferences on cannabis and harm reduction, displayed information with a local collective and taken part in the drafting of municipal proposals on cannabis, as well as in the work at the EU level with Encod;
  • Co-founder of the first French Cannabis clubs initiative (CSCF) in 2012; Co-founder of NORML France, and former board member (2011-2016), former public relations officer, cannabis policy reform advocate. He built several pathways for the implementation of Cannabis clubs in France;
  • Kenzi has been working as en international drug policy reform advocate since 2013;
  • Former correspondent in France and Spain for Leafly news;
  • Nowadays settled in Barcelona, he is now involved in the Catalan and Spanish drug policy reform movements, with a special focus on ground-up actions and programs impulsed by health and social stakeholders and affected populations;
  • Head of research at FAAAT.