Should there be a uniform cannabis policy that trickles down to governments around the world? If there was, which organization would craft that policy and how would it be enforced? While the United States certainly respects the United Nations, it does not place the organization on a mantle, particularly like European countries in terms of guidance and standardization laws and policies. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that the folks driving policy reform for decades at the United Nations have largely been ineffective. This is in part because the discussion has been driven mainly by activists. And not to be harsh, but the lobbyists at the United Nations don’t put a lot of stock in what activists have to say.

As I’ve said before, the best policy is to regulate the plant by its uses. The United Nations needs to segment out it’s treatment of this plant from a policy perspective as it relates to criminal justice reform measures and substantive legal, regulatory, and commercial matters. This is the most effective policy for a global commercial regulated industry. This is no longer simply about what policy would be the best to effectuate social change, but about bringing a new set of influencers that can work side-by-side with the folks at the United Nations to develop policy that meets the needs of a global commercial industry.

The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs

From a criminal justice reform standpoint, there should be a uniform policy that trickles down to governments around the world, but even instituting that policy change has been challenging. In March, the 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs highlighted divisions in the international community over the World Health Organization (WHO) cannabis scheduling recommendations. Given the inability to arrive at a consensus, the decision was made to postpone the vote until December 2020. We’ll see what happens this winter, especially in the wake of this pandemic, which could likely postpone this vote even further.

I want to propose this – rescheduling cannabis hurts this industry tremendously, specifically the over-the-counter marijuana sector. Rescheduling would send the message to pharmaceutical companies and agencies of the government that work with approving specific drugs for specific purposes, like the FDA, that cannabinoids and formulas that include cannabinoids and cannabis terpenes need to be regulated through a drug model.

Three Regulatory Lanes for Human Consumption From The Cannabis Plant

That poses a threat to the over-the-counter model. There are three regulatory lanes for human consumption from the cannabis plant – the nutraceutical, the food/supplement, and the pharmaceutical. We need the United Nations to shift its perspective because right now, they’re not being fed that kind of leadership, guidance, or framework. The folks that have influence want to see reform for the plant from a criminal justice and social justice perspective. But it’s so much more complex than that. If you want to find the pathway to global cannabis commercialization, you have to look at this plant through those three windows.

Rather than try to force a uniform policy across the world, we need to recognize that nations all around the world have legalized this plant but for very different reasons and under very different policies. It’s helpful that the World Health Organization and scientific-backed organizations with great reputations are getting more progressive on cannabis. But that is just one small fraction of what forms the basis for a multi-billion dollar industry – one that has international governments and global companies participating.