Patient Advocates Bring Medical Cannabis Issues to United Nations

By Ed Coghlan

While medical marijuana advocates are trying to expand its use in the U.S., some advocates are taking the case to an international body.

Today Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Steph Sherer, and Michael Krawitz, who is Executive Director, Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access have joined organizations at the United Nations headquarter in New York to continue preparations for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS 2016) on drug policy on April 19th-21st.

The meeting on Wednesday provided input for a report that will urge that global policies on medical cannabis be included in the drug policy report.

The UN has not addressed this issue in a special session in 17 years. The last time the focus was to eliminate illegal drugs and drug trafficking. Today, international leaders, drug policy reform groups, patients, and citizens are encouraging the UN to reform this approach. On the agenda for UNGASS 2016 is a review of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

Cannabis is currently scheduled in Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol. Today, Canada, Israel, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Romania, Germany, Jamaica, Australia, Italy, Columbia, Switzerland and over two-thirds of the population of the United States and its territories live in regions with medical cannabis laws.

“The current international policies on cannabis are outdated and are having a detrimental impact on patients in the United States and worldwide,” said Sherer. “New policies should take into account new clinical research, product safety protocols for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution, and global patient needs.”

The UN Single Convention treaty has been used by governments across the globe, including the United States, to derail attempts to reform national medical cannabis laws and research. At the “Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Policy, Research and Medical Practice” conference in Prague March 4-7, 2015, representatives of organizations of medical cannabis patients from 13 countries met and established the International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC), and put together a Declaration addressing UNGASS 2016. Sherer and Krawitz will relay the call for action outlined by the Declaration which calls for the UN to take a series of actions, including rescheduling cannabis.