U.N. Reclassifies Cannabis as a Less Dangerous Drug

China’s delegate said that, despite the United Nations move, the country would strictly control cannabis “to protect from the harm and abuse.”

Britain’s delegate said that the reclassification was “in line with the scientific evidence of its therapeutic benefits” but that the country still strongly supported international controls for cannabis, adding that marijuana presented “serious public health risks.”

The differing messages underline the complexities behind the decision. “It’s been a diplomatic circus,” said Mr. Riboulet-Zemouli, who added that some countries initially opposed to the change, like France, had since switched their position.

Michael Krawitz, executive director for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, an advocacy group in the United States, said the change in international law would “help reduce the suffering millions of people” and could help mitigate reliance on opiates, noting that cannabis was an important medication that could provide unique pain relief.

Also on Wednesday, the commission rejected a proposal to include the cannabis derivative THC in the 1961 convention, which would have tightened some controls.

The overhaul of cannabis policy, particularly around legalization for medical use, has moved at a rapid pace over the last few years, said Jessica Steinberg, managing director at the Global C, an international cannabis consulting group. Industry insiders have expressed hope that the vote will open the field for more research into the therapeutic benefits of the drug.

But the impact on the American and European markets was driving the issue, Ms. Steinberg noted. In the United States, where more states legalized the use of medical and recreational marijuana in the recent election, the market for both of those is expected to expand to more than $34 billion by 2025, according to Cowen.

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