Essential medicines and health products

News Briefing - 40th WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD)

The 40th WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) met from 4-7th June in a specially convened session to evaluate the public health harms and therapeutic value of cannabis and its related substances.

It was the first time the WHO ECDD reviewed cannabis and cannabis-related substances to consider the appropriateness of their current scheduling within the 1961 and 1971 International Drug Control Conventions. Substances under control are regulated by the International Drug Control Conventions, which restrict international production and trade of these substances. Cannabis and cannabis resin are currently placed under the strictest level of international control alongside substances like fentanyl analogues and heroin.

The Committee conducted preliminary reviews of cannabis-related substances that are currently subject to international control and determined that there was enough new robust scientific information about their public health harms and therapeutic value to re-evaluate their current level of international control:

  • Cannabis (e.g. marijuana) and cannabis resin (e.g. hashish)
  • Extracts and tinctures of cannabis (oils, edibles, liquids)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) e.g. dronabinol
  • Isomers of THC

The ECCD also conducted a critical review of preparations considered to be pure cannabidiol (CBD), a major component of the plant that has been used in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. The ECDD recommended that preparations considered to be pure cannabidiol (CBD) not be placed under international drug control as the substance was not found to have psychoactive properties, and presents no potential for abuse or dependence.

The next ECDD meeting will be held in November 2018. At that time, the Committee will undertake full critical reviews of cannabis and related substances. The meeting will also be an opportunity to review several New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) like synthetic cannabinoids and fentanyl-analogues, as well as medicines such as tramadol and pregabalin.

For further information on the work of the ECDD,