UN removes cannabis from ‘most dangerous drug’ category


Currently in India, the NDPS Act, 1985, illegalises any mixture with or without any neutral material, of any of the two forms of cannabis – charas and ganja — or any drink prepared from it.

  • In a decision that could influence the global use of medicinal marijuana, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, decades after they were first placed on the list.
  • CND has chosen to affirm a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation from 2019 to remove cannabis from its ‘most dangerous’ category.
  • India was part of the voting majority, along with the US and most European nations. 
  • China, Pakistan and Russia were among those who voted against, and Ukraine abstained.


The cannabis plant

  • According to the WHO, cannabis is a generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa
  • The major psychoactive constituent in cannabis is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • The Mexican name ‘marijuana’ is frequently used in referring to cannabis leaves or other crude plant material in many countries.
  • Most species of cannabis are dioecious plants that can be identified as either male or female
  • The unpollinated female plants are called hashish. Cannabis oil (hashish oil) is a concentrate of cannabinoids - compounds which are structurally similar to THC - obtained by solvent extraction of the crude plant material or of the resin.
  • WHO says that cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug in the world.
  • In January 2019, WHO made six recommendations related to scheduling of cannabis in UN treaties. 
  • The reclassification of cannabis by the UN agency, although significant, would not immediately change its status worldwide as long as individual countries continue with existing regulations. 
  • As per drug policy experts, the CND decision would add momentum to efforts for decriminalising cannabis in countries where its use is most restricted, while further legalising the substance in others. 
  • Scientific research into marijuana’s medicinal properties is also expected to grow.
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