The World Health Organisation, the world’s premier health agency, finalised a review in 2017 looking at CBD products in order to provide UN member states with up-to-date, scientifically backed information, from which they can derive local policy.

The Study

The review concluded that “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential”. It goes on to state “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile”. This came as welcome news for manufacturers and retailers worldwide, many of whom currently are forced to comply with stringent regulations set by their state regulatory bodies. The more publications that demonstrate the safety and tolerance in humans for these compounds, the more chance the industry has to expand.

The CBD Market

The WHO review process came amid a torrent of CBD and cannabis-based products hitting the market. CBD sales across the world are seeing significant increases year on year, with the US market now worth an estimated $367 million and projected to grow to $1.2 billion by 2020. This comes following the DEA’s 2018 rescheduling of CBD from ‘Schedule I’ – a class of compounds with no known medicinal value which is illegal to possess or prescribe, to ‘Schedule V’ – which allows practitioners to prescribe these compounds under certain circumstances.

WHO recommendations can impact a nation’s policy by providing the direct evidence countries often lack, and comment with authority on the objective risks associated with myriad public health issues. When it comes to cannabis legislation, the majority of countries are out of touch with scientific evidence, and base policy more on religious dogma or political pandering.

The Turning Of The Tides

The tide is now beginning to turn with regards to how cannabis is viewed across the globe. Two nations have now fully legalised and regulated sales of psychotropic marijuana, starting with Uruguay in 2013 and followed by Canada in 2018. Multiple states across the US have legalised recreational use, however, it remains illegal at a federal level allowing for prosecution even in legal states. 35 Countries have made exceptions for medicinal use of cannabis or cannabis-derived products, including the UK as of November 2018.

The Future

Following a positive review of CBD specifically, the WHO has now turned their focus to cannabis itself. Currently, the process stands at ‘Pre-Review’ stages, meaning we are some years off a full recommendation to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Should the evidence point to the need to reclassify cannabis from schedule I, UN member states will be in the difficult position of having their local drug policy be out of line with World Health recommendations.


Source: World Health Organisation Review 2017

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