A United Nations commission voted on Wednesday to remove cannabis (bhang) from a category of the world’s most dangerous substances.
Before taking the vote, the Commission for Narcotic Drugs, which is based in Vienna and includes 53 member states, considered a series of recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) on reclassifying cannabis and its derivatives.
Cannabis had been listed alongside dangerous and highly addictive opioids like heroin.
The decision has opened the door to recognizing the medicinal and therapeutic potential of the drug.
The reclassification passed with 27 votes. 25 member countries were against the move while Ukraine abstained.
The United States, European nations and South Africa were among countries that voted in favour, while the likes of China, Chile, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia were opposed to the review.
However, even with the reclassification, some of the countries that voted in favour of the review, said that the drug should still be subjected to restrictions.
Notably, the US voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the Single Convention while retaining them in Schedule I, saying it is “consistent with the science demonstrating that while a safe and effective cannabis-derived therapeutic has been developed, cannabis itself continues to pose significant risks to public health and should continue to be controlled under the international drug control conventions”.
Voting against, Chile argued that “there is a direct relationship between the use of cannabis and increased chances of suffering from depression, cognitive deficit, anxiety, psychotic symptoms, among others”.
Cannabis use is illegal in Kenya. However, some lawmakers including Narok Senator Ledama Olekina have continued to call for its legalization for medicinal use.