United States opposes CBD exemption in international drug treaty

(This story has been updated to correct the name of the representative speaking for the United States.)

The United States says it does not support a World Health Organization proposal to remove CBD extracts with less than 0.2% THC from international drug control.

U.S. State Department attorney Patt Prugh, speaking Thursday to a United Nations gathering in Vienna, said that a proposal to exclude low-THC cannabis products that are “predominantly” CBD from the jurisdiction of a 50-year-old global drug treaty could “introduce legal ambiguities and contradictions that would undermine effective drug control.”

Prugh said the U.S. supports removing cannabis from Schedule 4 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) – but not adding a footnote to exempt mostly CBD preparations.

She added that the CBD footnote and other WHO-suggested changes to cannabis scheduling could unintentionally authorize THC extracts, which would “undoubtedly lead to further cannabis abuse.”

Prugh made the comments virtually during a final meeting of the U.N. Commission on Narcotics Drugs ahead of a December vote on if and how to change the way cannabis is scheduled in international narcotics treaties.

The U.S. reiterated support for removing cannabis from Schedule 4 of the 1961 convention. The category is reserved for drugs that are “particularly liable to abuse” and don’t have “substantial therapeutic advantages.”

Last year, the World Health Organization made six recommendations for changing the way that cannabis and cannabis-related substances are scheduled in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971.

Most of the cannabis-scheduling recommendations would have little impact on international drug controls or tighten requirements. But two could affect products containing plant-derived cannabidiol:

  • Recommendation 5.4, which suggests deleting the “extracts and tinctures” category from Schedule 1 of the 1961 convention, as these are considered “preparations” and already covered by the treaty.
  • Recommendation 5.5, which suggests a footnote be added to the cannabis entry in the same treaty to clarify that preparations containing “predominantly” CBD and up to 0.2% THC are not under international control.

CBD is not specifically listed in the international drug control treaties but is covered by the 1961 convention, both as a “preparation” and as an “extract or tincture” of cannabis.

On Thursday, Prugh said that the United States would support only two of the six recommended changes:

  • Recommendation 5.1, which would delete cannabis from Schedule 4 of the 1961 convention. Cannabis would remain in the less-restrictive Schedule 1.
  • Recommendation 5.4, which would delete “extracts and tinctures of cannabis” from the same convention.

Prugh argued that the other recommendations, including the suggested footnote on CBD, lie “outside the scope of the scheduling process.”

“If adopted, at best, they would introduce legal ambiguities and contradictions that would undermine effective drug control, and at worst they could result in the exclusion of control of all THC derived from cannabis cultivated for industrial purposes and THC derived from leaves separated from the cannabis plant,” Prugh said. “This would undoubtedly lead to further cannabis abuse.”

Prugh said the United States believed it was up to member states to assign a THC threshold for criminalization and that it “firmly oppose(d) measures that would add to the financial burdens of member states and the UN system.”

Prugh’s speech to the CND was also heavily focused on the importance of research and the growing interest in cannabis-based therapies. She pointed out that the United States had approved marijuana-derived CBD drug Epidiolex and three other synthetic cannabis-related drugs to treat several medical conditions.

“This newfound therapeutic usefulness, which is not possessed by other substances, warrants the removal of cannabis from Schedule 4,” Prugh said.

“The United States understands that there is increasing interest in the potential utility of cannabis for a variety of medical conditions, as well as research on the potential adverse health effects from the use of cannabis.”

Prugh’s comments about the CBD footnote echoed concerns raised in June by a U.N. monitoring body.

The International Narcotics Control Board – an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body – said that authorities in some countries may lack the lab technology or manpower to evaluate the cannabinoid profile of CBD preparations – making it difficult to ensure compliance with the exemption.

Monica Raymunt can be reached at [email protected]

10 comments on “United States opposes CBD exemption in international drug treaty
  1. GreenCADream on

    Misguided, outdated, and regressive U.S. policies such as this one, are the reason other nations are going to outperform the U.S. in the CBD space. Other nations are going to bring their products to market sooner and secure global market share, while the U.S. government is busy doing battle with it’s own domestic hemp/CBD industry. Other governments support their hemp/CBD industry, while the U.S. government is trying to keep prohibition going.
    The U.S. government couldn’t be any more wrong in taking this regressive, outdated, shortsighted, and self-defeating stance.
    I think that it has to do more with protecting future potential profits for the pharmaceutical industry, than anything else. By wrongfully continuing to schedule CBD as it is now, it ensures that only the big pharmaceutical companies have access to it, and that they profit from the manufacturing of CBD products.
    This action by the U.S. government is basically ensuring that the pharmaceutical industry will monopolize the CBD space.
    Being that cannabis is now legally sold in many U.S. states, I think it is repugnant that Ms. Wolcott uses the health of the public as her excuse to take this stance.

    Reply
    • Jeff on

      Agreed 100%! U.S. Ambassador Jackie Wolcott said, “At worst they could result in the exclusion of control of all THC derived from cannabis cultivated for industrial purposes and THC derived from leaves separated from the cannabis plant,” Wolcott said. “This would undoubtedly lead to further cannabis abuse.” NOTE DEFINITION of ABUSE: USE. That definition will only change when your cannabinoid big pharma product is prescribed by your doctor.

      Reply
  2. Brooke Demos on

    Once again the US wants to be the greedy bully. Already harder to respect this country. Hope it lightens up soon. CBD is a good product worth fighting for.

    Reply
  3. Rick on

    Hopefully this is yet another thing that’ll change once Biden defeats Trump. There is no legitimate scientific or medical reason for keeping CBD extracts with less than 0.2% THC listed as a controlled substance. It’s a therapeutic substance and nothing more.

    Reply
    • Nathan on

      Republicans passed the 2018 Hemp Bill, Trump has said he is going to war against big pharma and is reducing their control over pricing in the US. Biden is a big business shill sold to the highest bidder, big pharma happens to be the largest lobbying body in the US over taking military. Under trump we have made continuous progress in cannabis and hemp.

      Reply
      • GreenCADream on

        With the exemption of your first sentence, everything else you stated is at best disingenuous and at worst a lie to support an ethically-bankrupt individual that has shown himself to be woefully inept as a siting president.
        To be clear, BOTH candidates are heavily influenced by Big Pharma and others. In this regard, Biden is the “lesser of two evils.”

        Reply
  4. Linda Catalino on

    This most definitely stinks of Big Pharma. They hold the puppet strings and It’s all about making money, not making people well The good people in this fight will never win. There’s not enough money on the planet to beat Big Pharma The drugs they manufacture and sell to Americans are killing us at three times what other countries pay for their poison!

    I use CBD and medical marijuana. I make my own RSO. Big Pharma, the FDA can go with them, and the rest of these people blowing hot air just to hear themselves talk.
    Signed,
    Disgusted but not surprised

    Reply
  5. Ray on

    changes to cannabis scheduling could unintentionally authorize THC extracts, which would “undoubtedly lead to further cannabis abuse.”

    This statement alone indicates the 1940s reefer madness approach to cannabis products. The US Government has failed the people and continues to do so no matter who the president when it comes to marihuana prohibition.

    Cannabis is a healing plant and to suggest it can be abused without stating what the abuse is only promotes false narrative to continue prohibition. Free this plant and all who have suffered under prohibition.

    Reply
  6. Joseph Bell Okon on

    When the President of the USA said he wanted nothing to do with WHO after difference about Covid 19. What we see is his promise to continue to appease Big Pharma as the entity who continues to shine in the stock market as medication sold in the USA can be up to 20x more expensive as it is sold in any other country in the world. This move would prevent the opportunity for most in the USA to have any alternative to Big Pharma product as today legal Cannabinoids medication Approved in ridiculously expensive! This is why other countries must unilaterally pursue this agenda as the USA has special interest groups promised the largest market monopoly..

    Reply

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