Stakeholders seek WHO formal review

World Health Organization

Cannabis industry stakeholders worldwide are calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to advance the evaluation of cannabis and cannabis resin when its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) meets this week. An industry letter-writing campaign is under way in the run-up to ECDD’s 38th annual session Nov. 14-18 in Geneva.

ECDD is the only body responsible for scientific review of controlled substances and the exclusive adviser to the United Nation’s Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND). Cannabis advocates have noted that while ECDD experts have continually sought a “pre-review” of cannabis during meetings in 2012, 2014 and 2015, this year’s committee agenda still indicates only an informal “update” on cannabis and cannabis resin will be presented. A pre-review is the first step in the formal process of removing cannabis from international drug schedules under scientific studies regarding abuse and dependence.

Cannabis advocates have long pointed out the non-addictive nature of the plant’s derivatives and repeatedly criticized global drug regimes that have continued to block the science about, and ultimately the widespread use of cannabis in various therapeutic, health and food applications.

In one report prepared for the EDCC meeting, Prof. Jason White of the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences at the University of South Australia, notes that when THC and cannabidiol are combined as nabiximols, “there is little evidence of abuse or dependence and relatively little potential for either to develop.” Nabiximols are specific extracts from cannabis that were developed by the British medical cannabis firm GW Pharmaceuticals about 2010; they are approved for use in the United Kingdom as a botanical drug to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis and as a pain reliever.

THC exists in high concentrations in cannabis indica (marijuana) while cannabidiol is primarily derived from cannabis sativa (hemp), which has only low concentrations of THC. Both have shown promise in treatment of a variety of health problems. Seed of hemp (often referred to as “industrial hemp”), usually pressed into oil, is already widely accepted in many countries in certain food and health products — based on its high concentrations of protein and Omega.

Cannabis is among 12 substances to be discussed at the WHO’s ECDD meeting next week.

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