EU mum, but USA opposes CBD exemption from global drug controls

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The European Union played its cards close to the vest at a meeting of the United Nations Committee on Narcotic Drugs (CND) held in Vienna late last week that addressed a range of recommendations on cannabis from the World Health Organization, neglecting to state EU positions on two WHO proposals directly affecting CBD. But the USA did not.

If approved, the two CBD-specific recommendations would 1) remove extracts and tinctures of cannabis from Schedule I of the 1961 convention and 2) free medical “preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol (CBD) and not more than 0.2 percent of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)” from international control.

The WHO recommendations, first released two years ago by the international body’s 41st Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, are unrelated to regulations governing natural hemp extracts in food and cosmetics, a separate but thorny issue EU officials are also currently studying.

Is EU situation an indicator?

The EU’s position on the CBD proposals before the CND could be foreshadowed by a surprising “preliminary conclusion” issued by the European Commission in July that suggests non-medical natural hemp extracts – frequently present in hemp food, food supplements and cosmetics – should be considered narcotics in the EU itself. Stakeholders have said that decision, if finalized, could be devastating to European CBD companies.

Last week’s CND meeting was a final opportunity for UN member states to discuss the WHO proposals ahead of a final vote by the CND that is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Sources told HempToday that while the EU representative declined last week to say how the Union will vote on the WHO recommendations during an open session, those representing EU interests in closed sessions seemed to indicate a reluctance to enter an outright “no” vote and could recommend sending the proposals back to WHO for further scientific review.

USA voices opposition

While the EU was mum on its positions, the representative of the United States said that country will not back the change regarding CBD as a medical preparation. The U.S. representative said the WHO proposal to remove CBD medicine from international drug controls could “introduce legal ambiguities and contradictions that would undermine effective drug control.” Instead, she reaffirmed that medical CBD is not scheduled in the Conventions, and therefore not subject to drug controls, reminding as well that CBD which may be present in industrial hemp products are similarly exempt.

The U.S. was joined by a number of other countries which have already stated their opposition to WHO’s recommended changes.

Support for removing extracts, tinctures

According to CND Monitor, which tracks sentiment on drug issues, the EU and Switzerland led support for the recommendation that cannabis extracts and tinctures (including CBD) be removed  from Schedule I of the 1961 convention, with Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico and Peru indicating they also will back that proposal. Australia, France, USA, South Africa and Switzerland are also reported to support that recommendation. 

Only South Africa and Switzerland have so far indicated that they will support the recommendation that preparations containing predominantly CBD and not more than 0.2 percent of THC be removed from international control. 

After delays, time for vote

Fifteen voting nations, led by Russia and Nigeria – both of which are against any changes to international drug rules — have indicated they will not back either of the proposals affecting CBD. That leaves roughly 30 countries who, like the EU voting bloc, have not yet indicated their positions or are seeking consensus with other countries.

Regardless of how the vote turns out, several country representatives who addressed last week’s CND session said the time has come for the body to finally address the cannabis issues after repeated delays. As the Mexican representative put it, in these recommendations “cannabis is not the messenger, cannabis is the message” – the message of change in the UN conservative drug policy commission.

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