Will India legalize cannabis after the UN vote?


The UN Commission on Narcotic Drug has voted to reclassify cannabis recognising it a narcotic that is not dangerous. India voted in favour of the decision. Will India now legalize cannabis in the country? 

 In the recent advances made by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Cannabis has been recognized as a narcotic that is not dangerous.  The vote was in favor of removing cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on narcotic drugs, 1961. Cannabis had been in this schedule for 59 years and these restrictions generally discouraged its use for medical purposes. The Single Convention is the main international treaty related to Cannabis sativa L. and its products. Article of the Single Convention defines “cannabis” as the “flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops) from which the resin has not been extracted, by whatever name they may be designated;” while “cannabis resin” is defined as “the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant.” The decision of such change was a result of majority voting, India being among the 27 countries that voted in favour of removing cannabis and cannabis resin from the list of prohibited substances.


Schedule I includes substances that are highly addictive and highly liable to substance use disorders, or that are convertible into controlled drugs, while Schedule IV lists “certain drugs listed in Schedule I that are highly addictive and highly liable to abuse and rarely used in medical practice.”[10] Schedule IV is a “stricter subset of schedule I, that specifies extra control measures.

By Prabhash K Dutta: Cannabis, also known loosely as hemp, marijuana or pot, may be on its way to being reclassified in India. Cannabis transactions are largely illegal and strictly controlled in India. But now, the United Nations has decided to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the list of dangerous narcotic substances. And, India voted in favour of the decision.

WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) had released six recommendations, which included removing cannabis from Schedule IV of the Convention in January 2019. This recommendation was based on a formal expert review on cannabis and all cannabis-related substances that currently fall under the ambit of international controls and regulations. “The ECDD advised that certain cannabis-derived medicines like cannabidiol have no potential to be abused or cause dependence but have significant health benefits for children with treatment-resistant epilepsy, and therefore should not be placed under international control. “

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This decision will open doors for research into the deeper understanding of cannabis and its related substances. Reclassification of cannabis and cannabis resin will remove some international procedural barriers especially for research and development of cannabis-based medical products according to national regulatory frameworks.  The change in status of cannabis will not affect its non-medical use or promote legalization, as it remains under strict international control.  Cannabis and cannabis resin will now be classified as having a similar degree of abuse and dependence potential as medicines such as morphine and oxycodone. 


India abstained from providing an official explanation for its vote, but according to reliable sources, it is understood that India’s stance was rooted in the belief that the medical applications of cannabis hold significant potential. However, it should be noted that the recreational use of cannabis remains strictly prohibited in India. India’s vote in favour of reclassification of cannabis and cannabis resin, is a promising turn of event that hints towards a more accepting stance of India towards Cannabis. This will open doors for cannabis education, research and medicines in the future India.


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