Fact Check: The United Nations Did NOT Classify Cannabis As A 'Medicine'

Fact Check

  • by: Victoria Eavis
Fact Check: The United Nations Did NOT Classify Cannabis As A 'Medicine' Too Much Buzz

Did a United Nations commission vote to reclassify cannabis as a "medicine"? No, that's not true: the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted on December 2, 2020, to remove cannabis from the strictest drug-control list, Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it had been listed alongside dangerous, addictive drugs with little to no therapeutic value, such as heroin. This reclassification does not certify cannabis as a "medicine."

The claim originated from a Facebook meme (archived here) where it was published on December 2, 2020. The caption opened:

The UNITED NATIONS has now officially established that CANNABIS IS MEDICINE! 🌱

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Dec 3 14:41:43 2020 UTC)

The drug will remain on Schedule I of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which includes drugs that carry a risk for abuse, but have notable potential for therapeutic uses, according to the U.S. Department Of Justice. Schedule IV consists of drugs more liable for abuse and for which the risk of ill-effects is "not offset by substantial therapeutic advantages," according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In January 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) released six recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances, the first of which recommended that cannabis and cannabis resin be "deleted from Schedule IV." After almost two years, the member states voted 27-25 to remove cannabis from Schedule IV, with Ukraine abstaining.

A number of countries already have medical cannabis programs, while Canada and Uruguay have legalized it. Following the recent U.S. federal election, the number of U.S. states where the recreational use of cannabis is legal jumped to 15 after New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona voted in favor of legalization.

While the UN voting to remove cannabis from Schedule IV is a major step, it does not mean that cannabis is now internationally classified as a "medicine."

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  Victoria Eavis

Victoria Eavis is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She recently graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. In her last few months at Duke, she was a reporter for a student news site, The 9th Street Journal, that covers the city of Durham, North Carolina. 

Read more about or contact Victoria Eavis

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