The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from a list that categorized it as one of the most dangerous drugs.
The approval means that the World Health Organization will remove cannabis and cannabis resin from its Schedule IV classification under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. That designation put cannabis and one of its derivatives in a category alongside heroin and other opioids.
Substances classified as Schedule IV are a subset of Schedule I drugs. That means not only are they considered to be “highly addictive and highly liable for abuse,” they’re also labeled as “particularly harmful and of extremely limited medical or therapeutic value.”
“This is welcome news for the millions of people who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes and reflects the reality of the growing market for cannabis-based medicinal products,” a group of drug policy advocacy organizations said in a news release.
The move is largely symbolic, and may not have an immediate impact on how governments control scheduled substances. But it could give a boost to medical cannabis legalization efforts in countries that look to the United Nations for guidance.
The commission voted 27-25 to reschedule cannabis and cannabis resin. The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and South Africa were among those who voted in favor, while countries including Brazil, China, Russia and Pakistan voted against.