Drug policy advocates are celebrating a win this week after a United Nations commission voted to remove marijuana for medical use from a list of the world's most dangerous drugs. In a 27-25 vote, with only Ukraine abstaining, the 53 member states of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to take cannabis out of the Schedule IV portion of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a section that includes such lethal, addictive narcotics as heroin and certain forms of fentanyl. The move could pave the way for further marijuana legalization and medical research globally. "This is a huge, historic victory for us, we couldn't hope for more," Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, an independent researcher who's been keeping tabs on the issue, tells the New York Times.
The World Health Organization started lobbying last year for what Marijuana Business Daily calls a "long overdue" change—which is nonbinding, as individual nations still control how they classify cannabis, but still helpful, as countries often look to the international body for guidance. The complexities and politics underlying the issue delayed progress, however. The UK's delegate, for example, noted that although the tweak is "in line with the scientific evidence of its therapeutic benefits," nations should still keep marijuana on a tight rein, as it has "serious public health risks." "It's been a diplomatic circus," Riboulet-Zemouli notes. The US was among the member states that voted in favor of the reclassification. MarketWatch notes pot stocks continued to rise this week in anticipation of Wednesday's vote, with the stocks of one Canadian company, Aurora Cannabis, spiking 19% in Monday trading. (Read more cannabis stories.)