In February, the International Narcotics Control Board launched a consultation with civil society on the reporting and monitoring of cannabis and cannabinoid for medical and scientific purposes.
The work on new standards come as a result of last year’s decision by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to remove cannabis from the most restrictive category in the drug control system and place it in the second most restrictive category. The most restrictive category is reserved for harmful substances with little or no medical use. Since cannabis and cannabinoids are harmful, but increasingly used for medical purposes, the member states decided to reschedule the drug.
The global drug conventions allow the use of controlled substances for medical and scientific use. However, EURAD points out that medical use requires the same standard of evidence for cannabinoids as for other medicines, with clear information about dosing, mode of administration, content of active ingredients, side effects, contraindications, and drug-drug interactions.
There is evidence that cannabinoids can be effective for some medical conditions and in some users. However, the many claims about medical effects are not backed by science. Increasingly, the cannabis industry is involved in research on medical effects of cannabis. This creates a risk of bias. We therefore need independent research on the effects of cannabinoids.
The cultivation and production of cannabis for medical purposes also create significant control challenge for law enforcement. We therefore call for robust and well-funded regulatory bodies to oversee the licit market in cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.
Much of the research on cannabis has been done on cannabis products with lower THC content than the products that are currently on the market. Cannabis produced for scientific use needs to reflect the products on the market, i.e. high potency strains and a great variety of products, such as edibles, cannabinoid infused drinks, topicals, oils and concentrates. We need more research on the effects of high potency products and new routes of administration.
There has been a booming market for CBD consumer products. Although CBD is non-psychoactive, it still has harmful sideeffects. Although the CBD content in most consumer products is low, we still do not have clear evidence on the long term effects. Furthermore, analyses have found significant discrepancy between the content of CBD-products and the content stated on the label, e.g. products contain less CBD or more THC than stated. There is a need for better regulation of these products.
CBD and hemp products can also be converted into psychoactive cannabinoids, such as Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC and Delta-O THC. Since these cannabinoids have been derived from legal hemp or CBD, their legal status has been unclear in some jurisdictions. Regulation, monitoring and control mechanisms must therefore address these emerging issues.