World Health Organization (WHO) logo. (Nicholas Ratzenboeck, AFP/Getty Images)

World Health Organization: Initial review of CBD doesn’t warrant scheduling

CBD, for now, should not be subject to international drug scheduling, a World Health Organization committee determined in an initial review of the cannabis compound.

WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence on Wednesday released findings and scheduling recommendations for more than a dozen substances reviewed at its annual meeting in early November. As part of those findings, the WHO committee announced plans to undertake a fuller review of cannabidiol in 2018:

“There is increased interest from Member States in the use of cannabis for medical indications including for palliative care. Responding to that interest and increase in use, WHO has in recent years gathered more robust scientific evidence on therapeutic use and side effects of cannabis and cannabis components.

To that end, the ECDD did an initial review of a cannabis compound called cannabidiol (CBD). Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions. Current evidence also shows that cannabidiol is not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids (such as Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC), for instance). The ECDD therefore concluded that current information does not justify scheduling of cannabidiol and postponed a fuller review of cannabidiol preparations to May 2018, when the committee will undertake a comprehensive review of cannabis and cannabis related substances.”

The initial official guidance falls in line with expert recommendations published prior to the ECDD’s Nov. 6-10 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Plans for a deeper review of CBD in May by ECDD will coincide with a previously scheduled evaluation of the cannabis plant and its components.

The 40th ECDD meeting is scheduled for May 2018, and committee Secretariat Dilkushi Poovendran told The Cannabist via email that the meeting’s “Special Session on Cannabis” will include pre-reviews of the following substances:

  • Cannabis plant and cannabis resin
  • Extracts and tinctures of cannabis
  • Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Isomers of THC

Cannabidiol is not listed explicitly as a controlled substance in the 1961 United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1972 Protocol amending the Single Convention.

However, the international body lists the cannabis plant and cannabis resin as Schedule I and Schedule IV substances — the two most-restrictive categories. Cannabis extracts and cannabis tinctures are also listed solely as Schedule I, which does account for therapeutic potential.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Health and Human Services agencies are monitoring what develops out of the ECDD. HHS expected to hold off on making recommendations of its own until the final determinations are submitted to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

The ECDD’s recommendations released Wednesday included placing carfentanil, a synthetic version of fentanyl that has been used as an elephant tranquilizer, in the most stringent level of international control: Schedules I and IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The full report on the ECDD’s recommendations can be accessed here.

Catch up on all the cannabidiol news with The Cannabist’s special report: CBD, TBD

Part I – Forbidden medicine: Caught between a doctor’s CBD advice and federal laws

Part II – How advocates are inspiring congressional action on CBD legalization

Part III – With DEA digging in its heels on “marijuana extracts,” legality of CBD oil on trial in federal courts

Part IV – CBD research is going to the dogs in quest to legitimize pet products

Part V – CBD on the international stage: WHO committee delving into science, control status of cannabis compound

Part VI – Race for CBD medication breakthrough: Is pharma firm’s boon the hemp industry’s doom?