Statement of International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC)
Mr. Chair, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
We are addressing this meeting as the International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC), which brings together organizations of medical cannabis patients from 39 countries in 5 continents. IMCPC was established in Prague in March 2015, when we also adopted a Declaration requesting all States taking part at the UNGASS on Drugs in 2016 to support the rights of patients that require medical cannabis preparations for their treatment.
As you know, the access of cannabis as a medicine is prohibited in most countries and severely curbed in many others. In our Declaration, we have identified that the obsolete scheduling status of cannabis under the 1961 Single Convention represents the main obstacle for its medical and scientific use. We requested that issue be addressed at the UNGASS on Drugs in 2016.
We welcomed the States commitment to ensuring adequate access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes and to addressing all existing barriers including legislation and regulatory systems in the UNGASS outcome document. Patients in need of cannabis for their medical treatment should be included among those benefiting from improved access.
Some Governments have already acted accordingly and opened or extended the access to medical cannabis to qualifying patients regulated under various state-sponsored programs. We are happy to note the recent legislative changes in Germany and we invite other countries to follow this progress.
We have also been very pleased with another major step in the right direction, also in line with requests in our Declaration of March 2015 and the CND’s Resolution 52/5 from 2009; the decision of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) at the 38th meeting in November 2016 to pre-review cannabis at the ECDD meeting dedicated to cannabis to be held within the next eighteen months. It is important that this pre-review process is followed promptly by a critical review. This can, and undoubtedly should, happen before 2019.
Most of the information that WHO needs for the objective evaluation of the medical value regarding the cannabis plant and its preparations has been made available. In March last year, a group of international experts prepared the Cannabis and Cannabis Resin Critical Review Preparation Document. This document was peer-reviewed and adopted at the International Conference on Harmonization of Global Cannabis Policy, in Washington D.C., in March 2016, which was supported by our co-founding member organization Americans for Safe Access. IMCPC provided this document to the Director-General of WHO, to the ECDD and to CND.
Mr. Chair, under the agenda item in chapter 5 of the outcome document, we encourage the Commission to explore evidence-based treatment with medical cannabis as a strategic tool to combat the misuse of opioids in countries such as the U.S. As the practical experience from several U.S. states implicates, that access to medical cannabis has significantly lowered the levels of medical use and misuse of prescription opioids, overdose deaths, and other negative phenomena.
Mr. Chair, a revision of the current scheduling status of cannabis under the 1961 Single Convention would be a major step towards the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document. We request the WHO address this issue as priority and we invite all States and international bodies, such as CND, INCB, World Bank, and UNODC, to support WHO in this regard. We propose that the ECDD set strong expert criteria for the selection of reviewers to ensure that top scientific experts with profound evidence-based insight into the issue, and with practical experience with medical cannabis treatment, are involved in the whole process, from beginning to end. We would like to assure that IMCPC members are ready to provide all information at our disposal to WHO and Governments, including the nomination of reviewing experts, to facilitate and speed up this process that is of the utmost importance for us, and the suffering citizens we have the honor to represent.
Thank you for your attention.