Updates from the 62nd Reconvened Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and How You Can Get Involved!

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This entry has been published on January 7, 2020 and may be out of date.

Written by Orsi Fehér ’16, SSDP’s European Global Fellow

SSDP’s delegation to the 62nd reconvened session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) featured Jessica Steinberg from Oxford University, Panagiotis Sevris from SSDP Vienna, and Orsi Fehér, SSDP’s Global Fellow. While the session itself mainly dealt with administration and budgetary discussion and, as such, didn’t contain as much excitement as we had hoped, we did have the chance to attend two side events at the Vienna International Center during the session. ‘A framework for multilateralism – the pathways to and from the international drug control regime’ was hosted by Singapore during lunchtime, and ‘Understanding the WHO’s Recommendations on Cannabis’ was hosted by the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition during an evening reception.

Commemorating the 55th anniversary of the first drug convention, Singapore’s side event ‘A framework for multilateralism – the pathways to and from the international drug control regime’ led us through the history of global drug control from various perspectives, as presented by the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Director for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, official representatives of the Chinese and American delegation, a Professor of History of International Relations and Global Governance at Utrecht University, and the Chair of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs. The speakers presented their respective takes on how the international drug control system developed to perpetually renew itself – since the first Opium Convention. There seemed to be a general agreement on a path forward in unison as no country alone can control the underground market and the various facets of the ‘World Drug Problem’.

The most notable presentation came from the United States, where Professor Virginia Prugh presented the challenges the country faces regarding cannabis control on the federal level. She talked about how the Controlled Substances Act, which applies throughout the United States and its territories, holds up the obligations under the global drug control treaties. She then explained how the domestic policy structure is different from the European Union as the US ratified the conventions on a federal level while allowing states to retain some of their sovereignty. She then went on to talk about how the US never recognized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes on the federal level, meaning that states with medical cannabis regulations contravene federal law. The government has restricted access to the banking system for those who are not pursuant to federal laws, meaning that medical and recreational cannabis businesses can not access banking services. The by-product of organized crime, however, has led the US to say “We haven’t figured out how to thread the needle here – addressing this mentioned problem and remaining faithful to the Conventions.” (read the full statement here and send an email to orsi.feher@ssdp.org if you have advice for the delegation of the United States on how to thread that needle.)

‘Understanding the WHO’s [World Health Organization’s] Recommendations on Cannabis’ featured Dr. Pavel Pachta, former Deputy Secretary of the INCB; Dr. Pavel Kubu, CEO of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute; and Dr. Dani Gordon, Vice Chair of the UK Medical Cannabis Clinician Society. The event covered the recent process of the WHO’s expert consultations on CBD, THC, extracts and resins, and the following announced recommendations:

*CBD is recommended to be removed from the international conventions.

*THC is recommended to be removed from Schedule IV and listed under Schedule I in the 1961 Convention, and removed from Schedule I of the 1971 Convention.

*Extracts and tinctures are recommended to be removed from Schedule I.

Voting on these recommendations was scheduled to take place during the 62nd CND in March this year. However, the CND decided to delay the vote until March 2020. It is still unclear whether or not the vote will include these recommendations in full as there was some discussion about the CND partially voting on some recommendations and delaying the rest. It would not come as a shock if the vote were delayed entirely.

Despite the preference of the gathered practitioners, patients, advocates and academics, the pro-cannabis consensus is not widely shared amongst the voting delegations. Cannabis policy remains contentious; it is expected that informal lobbying will continue to take place prior to the March convention. With various outcomes to be decided, the debate will be ongoing – If you would like to take action or take a deep dive into global cannabis policy reform, contact Orsi at orsi.feher@ssdp.org!