THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has just signaled what looks to be an about-face regarding the use of medical marijuana. The WHO has just endorsed the findings of a preliminary report by the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) which considered the possible benefits of an active constituent of cannabis called cannabidiol (CBD) and has decided that there is no justification for the continuing classification of this cannabinoid as a scheduled drug. The committee found that there was little potential for either abuse or dependence where this cannabinoid was concerned.
Reacting to changing drug policies across the world in member states, most notably in North America and mainland Europe, as well as increasing medical claims, the committee decided to take a closer look at more recent and robust evidence especially regarding its therapeutic applications in particular with regards to the treatment of the symptoms of epilepsy and for palliative care:
“To that end, the ECDD did an initial review of a cannabis compound called cannabidiol (CBD). Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions. Current evidence also shows that cannabidiol is not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids (such as Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC), for instance). The ECDD therefore concluded that current information does not justify scheduling of cannabidiol and postponed a fuller review of cannabidiol preparations to May 2018, when the committee will undertake a comprehensive review of cannabis and cannabis related substances.”
Although this endorsement can be viewed as something of a reactive measure it nonetheless appears that a shift in emphasis is taking place at a supra-national level. What is striking about this initiative is that only last year (2016) the United Nations General Assembly Special Session, meeting for the first time in almost 20 years to discuss global drug policy, reaffirmed its commitment to the prohibitionist response to narcotics and other illegal drugs. This new statement could be a signal that the reality of drug consumption worldwide combined with the new legal framework adopted by the governments of countries such as the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and more recently Greece to provide fully legal medical cannabis within the EU is finally being recognised by the WHO.
Furthermore, the fact that a half of US states now provide a framework for the provision of medical marijuana coupled with the decision of Canada to allow both medical and recreational usage is a clear sign that conservative attitudes to drug consumption based on morality rather than evidence and personal choice are gradually losing their traction.
Advocates of medical marijuana claim efficacy for the relief of symptoms of many medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease, anxiety, depression, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, ME, PTSD, epilepsy as well as both chronic and neuropathic pain. What is certain is that a more relaxed attitude to cannabis will undoubtedly result in an increasing number of studies aimed at testing these claims in medical trials.
The full report, which was primarily commissioned to consider tougher restrictions to fentanyl and its analogues, is available here: http://www.who.int/medicines/news/2017/WHO-recommends-most-stringent-level-int-control/en/