New Zealand needs to speak up on UN drug control policy – now.

Vienna, UN Headquarters, 8th December 2018

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A New Zealand medical cannabis company is calling on the government to show international leadership in what it says is a broken UN system after the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested an addictive synthetic opioid posed less risk than cannabis.

A much anticipated report from nearly three years of scientific assessment of Cannabis by WHO left many observers stunned and frustrated when it was announced no recommendation would be made. The last assessment by WHO in 1954 fuelled global prohibition under the UN drug control Treaty framework.

Yesterday in front of governments of the world, the WHO reported that Tramadol – a synthetic opioid responsible for large numbers of addiction and deaths across the world – should not be placed under control. WHO also made bold recommendations on synthetic cannabinoids declaring they are far more harmful than Cannabis, have no apparent redeeming medical utility. Yet, WHO recommended a far less restrictive placement under the Treaties compared to Cannabis.

“The New Zealand representative was missing  from most of the meeting” said Manu Caddie from Hikurangi Cannabis Company. “We need to show some real leadership as petty politics and diplomatic largesse seems to be grinding the UN Committee on Narcotic Drugs into a slow death.”

Mr Caddie said most of the three days was taken up with diplomats congratulating each other for sitting on committees, calls for more data and name calling as the US refused to participate in future meetings after the representative from Iran was elected Vice Chair of the Committee.

“New Zealand has a proud tradition of involvement in these multilateral forums and it was really disappointing that we didn’t bring a sensible perspective to what seemed like a real circus. The current Government is shifting the domestic focus on drugs from a criminal justice issue to a health promotion approach, they really need to talk to other governments who are still fixed on prohibition as if that has worked anywhere.”

Mr Caddie said many NGOs, drug policy reform advocates, industry representatives, patients, doctors and scientists from every corner of the globe made the travel to witness this historical UN session. When the time came to release the findings on Cannabis to the packed audience, all were stunned to watch the WHO official announce that the outcome on Cannabis was kept confidential, and no date announced for the release.

“We’re optimistic that the recommendation will be controversial and they will suggest Cannabis should not be in the same class as Heroin, Cocaine and Methaphetamine, but they’re really dragging their feet and New Zealand needs to participate and step up. There are many countries who find the failed War On Drugs very convenient as an excuse for all kinds of terrible activities committed by the state and many are opposed to the ban on Cannabis being relaxed.”

Over the last 60 years of the UN discussing drug policies this is the first time that scientific data, requested by the UN and countries, has been collated, analysed and then left out of the special hearing process.

“After close to three years of this Cannabis Review process such behaviour is difficult to understand” said Mr Caddie. “Advocates that came from as far as South Africa, Chile and Australia to witness the release of the report were visibly shaken by the lack of courage displayed by the WHO.”

According to Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, a leader in the FAAAT organization, “we are terribly disappointed that yet again the World Health Organization has decided not to obey their own rules and guidelines”, Kenzi continued “countries need time to understand and endorse the recommendations before the final (simple majority) vote to accept or reject them, in March next year.”

Michael Krawitz, senior advisor to FAAAT feels that “this decision to withhold the results of the Critical Review of Cannabis appears to be politically motivated.” Krawitz continued “The WHO has been answering many questions about Cannabis legalisation, which is not within their mandate, I hope the WHO shows courage and stands behind their work on Cannabis, findings we expect to be positive based upon recent WHO statements and their other actions today.”

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Mr Caddie is presenting at a separate cannabis policy conference at the United Nations tomorrow. Hikurangi has joined with other companies and NGOs around the world to form a Global Fair Trade Cannabis alliance aimed at setting standards for the new industry that protect workers, communities and the environment.


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