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New ‘Cannabis Initiative’ From ‘Secretive’ UN Body May Cause Serious Harm To Global Industry

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A SECRETIVE United Nations body is in the process of drawing up its first ‘ill-informed’ Cannabis Initiative which may deliver a serious blow to the booming global industry.

The move by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is being viewed by some as ‘survival measure’ by a body dubbed a ‘relic from the past’.

The INCB is less transparent than the Security Council of the United Nations, with no access to their discussions and no minutes of their meetings.

However, leaked drafts of its Cannabis Initiative have signalled its intent to press ahead with recommendations which pose a serious threat to the industry – and many view as outwith its remit.

Deep Concerns Over INCB Proposals

The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has had access to these drafts and highlights a number of significant flaws, whilst expressing  its ‘deep concerns’ over the proposals.

Its Managing Director Lorenza Romanese told BusinessCann: “The proposals refer to CBD as still being ‘under control’, but completely ignore the ruling by the European Court of Justice last year in the KanaVape case.

“This judgement clearly states that CBD extracted from cannabis plants should not be regarded as a narcotic drug in the light of the spirit and letter of the 1961 Convention – a position which has now been adopted by the European Commission.”

She went on to say that the Cannabis Initiative does not distinguish between ‘drug-type cannabis’ and ‘cannabis for industrial purposes’ – hemp.

“In addition, the Cannabis Initiative includes a number of good practices on cultivation, security measures, for example, which are far from within the mandate of INCB – these are the mandates of WHO (World Health Organisation) and the FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation).

“They should not be telling farmers how to cultivate their plants. This is a matter for agriculture – absolutely not that of the INCB.

“The INCB’s mandate is to co-operate and support member states in meeting their requirements when it comes to controlled drugs. This Cannabis Initiative goes far beyond that,” she said.

Respected European cannabis researcher and thought-leader Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli highlights the threat to the medical cannabis industry.

“They consider cannabis and cannabis resin – the flowers and the raw extract – only as an API, and the only final products that can be supplied to patients. However, this goes against general practice where flowers and extracts are supplied.

“If countries were to harmonise on this basis it would conflict with the idea of providing herbal formulations of cannabis.”

EIHA’s frustrations have been expressed in a letter to Ms Monique Pariat, the European Commission Director General for Migration and Home Affairs, in which EIHA calls for it to intervene on behalf of the member states.

BusinessCann has approached Ms Pariat’s department for a comment on the situation and is awaiting a response. Likewise we are awaiting a comment from the INCB on its position.

The ‘INCB Initiative on the Control and Monitoring Requirements of Cannabis and Cannabis-related Substances’ or ‘Cannabis Initiative’ is set to be unveiled in November and will be set for discussion at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2022.

‘Complex, Lengthy and Polarized Debates’

Ms Romanese’s letter broaches this subject saying: “This may open the door to further complex, lengthy, and polarized debates on cannabis at the intergovernmental level in 2022.

“This being said, we believe that the (European) Commission should urgently reaffirm the ruling stated by the ECJ on the KanaVape Court Case…Hence, these guidelines should not include CBD under the controlled list.”

Ms Romanese went on to say it believes the INCB should either reduce the scope of its Initiative or involve other UN agencies with corresponding mandates, for example; the WHO and FAO.

She added: ”We support this approach as we believe that, because we are dealing with an agricultural crop, there is an urgent need to bring to the table other bodies not dealing with drug control.”

Mr Riboulet-Zemouli added: “The INCB are about to release guidelines on areas in which they have no expertise and there is a risk that, although not binding, they will lead to harmonisation and will be hard to escape.

“These recommendations will be unrelated to the reality of cannabis which is complex and not well understood by members of the INCB, who lack the necessary expertise.”

The medical properties of cannabis and cannabis resin were recognised for the first time in December last year when they removed from Schedule IV of 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, by the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

What Is The INCB – A Giant Spreadsheet?

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) was established in 1968 in accordance with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, although its predecessors date back to the League of Nations in the 1920s.

Its basic role is to monitor and record the licit manufacture of, trade in and use of drugs, in cooperation with Governments, and to ensure the diversion of drugs from licit sources to illicit channels does not occur.

The INCB is a treaty body, it is not a United Nations entity in itself and has been mandated under the international drug conventions.

Its recommendations are not binding although its guidelines usually set the standards and can be difficult to avoid.

It says its Cannabis Initiative aims to ‘set standards for the control of the cultivation, manufacture and utilization of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes’.

However Mr Riboulet-Zemouli said: “The INCB is less transparent than the Security Council of the United Nations, it is the most secretive of all international organisations.”

He believes this move is a ‘survival initiative’, which places it at the centre of a topic that is generating debate, money and concern.

He went on to say it is essentially a relic from the past that could be replaced by a ‘giant spreadsheet’. “It is essentially a small administrative body that has a limited role of monitoring International trade in licit medication under control.”

The INCB is expected to publish its Cannabis initiative in November and it will be discussed at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2022.

This may open the door to further complex, lengthy debates on cannabis at the intergovernmental level in 2022.

The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (SCND)  establishes strict controls on the cultivation of opium poppy, coca bush, cannabis plant and their products.

The production and distribution of controlled substances must be licensed and supervised, by a country’s respective Government, with the INCB annually publishing information about the licit movement of these ‘controlled narcotic drugs’.

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