10 December 2020

On 2 December 2020, Australia voted at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) on six recommendations concerning the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis related substances, made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January 2019 to the CND.

The CND adopted the first recommendation to delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended (Single Convention), which has the effect of recognising that cannabis is being used for medical purposes by many countries.

The CND however rejected the remaining five recommendations. A press release of the vote (pdf,172kb) can be found on United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime website. For Australia, the benefit of the WHO recommendations, where they have been adopted, would have ensured consistency with other countries on the international control framework as they apply to cannabis and cannabis related substance. Despite the rejection of five of the WHO recommendations, all parties are committed to the Single Convention and CND.

The CND adoption of the WHO recommendation to delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the Single Convention and the rejection of five of the six recommendations are not expected to have any impact on Office of Drug Control stakeholders. There is also no impact on Australian scheduling in the Poisons Standard. Cannabis and its extracts for therapeutic use continue to be in Schedule 8 of the Poisons standard.

The announcement of the TGA Delegate's final decision regarding the proposed down-scheduling of low dose cannabidiol (CBD) from Schedule 4 (Prescription Only Medicine) to Schedule 3 (Pharmacist Only Medicine) of the Poisons Standard is expected by the end of December 2020. Further information is available in the Public notice of the interim decision on CBD scheduling.