A United Nations commission has voted in favour of removing cannabis for medicinal purposes from the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs, where it was listed alongside “deadly, addictive” opioids like heroin.
The vote by the Commission for Narcotic Drugs, which is based in Vienna and includes 53 member states, took place on Wednesday. It considered a series of recommendations from the World Health Organization on reclassifying cannabis and its derivatives.
Although the voting record has not been officially revealed so far, reports said that India is among the 27 countries who voted in favour of removing Cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
“The Commission for Narcotic Drugs’s 53 Member States voted to removed cannabis – where it had been placed for 59 years – from the strictest control schedules, that even discouraged its use for medical purposes,” a press release said. “With an historic vote of 27 in favour, 25 against, and one abstention, the CND has opened the door to recognising the medicinal and therapeutic potential of the commonly-used but still largely illegal recreational drug.”
An unidentified Indian diplomat told The Wire that the close margin of votes – 27 against 25 – was largely on the lines of “First World versus developing and Islamic countries”. “When seen through that perspective, India was an exception,” he added.
Apart from India, other countries that supported the proposal include the United States and the European Union, according to The Indian Express. Russia, China, Pakistan, on the other hand, voted “no” to delete cannabis from the list. Meanwhile, Ukraine abstained from voting, the newspaper reported.
Experts told The New York Times that the vote will have no immediate impact on loosening international controls because governments will still have jurisdiction over how to classify cannabis. Nonetheless, the United Nations recognition is “a symbolic win” for advocates of drug policy change, they said.
Under India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, and use of cannabis is a punishable offence.
The Narcotics Control Bureau has recently made several high profile arrests over cannabis possession, claiming to have uncovered a nexus between drug consumption and the film industry. It started with the arrest of actor Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik Chakraborty in the case related to actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death in June. The agency had also questioned Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan in the case.