Shaping the Future: IACM Patient Council Aims to Impact International Cannabis Policies at UN CND


The United Nations (UN) Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) is set to hold its 67th annual session next month at a time when numerous major shifts in cannabis policy are taking place across the globe.

From March 14–22, 2024, delegates from 53 member states will meet in Vienna to discuss the ins and outs of international drug policy, playing a vital role in determining the international frameworks for drug control moving forward.

This year, the IACM Patient Council, one of the largest international medical cannabis patient advocacy groups, is set to attend for the first time. The organisation believes this is a rare opportunity to educate and potentially influence decision makers at the highest level.

IACM Patient Council Co-founder and Greek national representative Jacqueline Poitras told Business of Cannabis: “For many politicians and decision influencers present, this will be the only opportunity at an event that is designed to deal with narcotic drug regulation issues on an international level to learn and have access to the information that cannabis is MEDICINE.

“If we do our job properly while there, we will be able to influence decision makers not only of individual countries but also at the highest level of international policy formation. We all need to be behind this effort.”

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The UN CND, established in 1946, is the primary policy-making body of the UN responsible for international drug control.

Its remit is to not only limit the proliferation of illicit drugs across UN member states but also, crucially, to promote access to controlled substances with legitimate medical and scientific purposes.

​​While it cannot directly implement policies within individual member states, it shapes the international framework on which the majority are based.

This includes deciding the ‘scope of control of substances under the three international drug control conventions’, such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and its amendments.

As seen recently in Germany and Luxembourg, this legislation has repeatedly been cited as a barrier to cannabis liberalisation, having numerous knock-on impacts on medical access.

Coming just weeks after the effective legalisation of cannabis in Germany, alongside the recent recognition of cannabis’ medical uses from the US Food and Drug Administration, this represents an opportunity like no other to drive change in international cannabis policy.

Turning drug policy around

This is exactly what the IACM, which is sending six representatives to the nine-day event, hopes to do, and it believes there is a growing recognition that change is needed.

The IACM’s US National Representative, Michael Krawitz, explained: “Despite the fact that member states such as the Netherlands have had national medicinal cannabis access programs active since the 1990s, it is only a very recent phenomenon for member states to discuss their medicinal cannabis access programs inside the commission.”

He continued that this change was likely due to a reform of the drug control treaty in 2020, which removed cannabis from the ‘so-called most dangerous drugs category’, helping ‘normalise the medical use of cannabis worldwide’.

However, Ms Poitras suggested that in many ways the recent strides in cannabis reform have worked against cannabis patients worldwide.

“Policymakers at every level seem to be under the impression that it’s a ‘done deal’ – in other words, that patients the world over are now enjoying the benefits of medicinal cannabis programs … and really do not understand the complexities and inequalities still faced by many.

“We have issues all over the world with affordable access (lack of coverage by public insurance), quality control, patients still being arrested, and lack of information and properly trained personnel at all levels. The list is quite extensive. We are still far from the higher echelons of policymaking being properly informed of the intricacies of the system that patients face.”

Through participation in numerous plenary sessions and forums during the event, including a side event on ‘Access and Availability, Palliative to Primary Care’, ‘Cannabis Biopiracy’ and a training session for CND participants and cannabis policy reform advocates, the IACM hopes to properly inform members of these issues.

Ms Poitras continued: “Once they learn the science behind the use of cannabinoids as medicine, acceptance becomes the natural evolution of opinion.

“Patient organisations can bring to the table the reality of cannabis therapy and what it can mean to the improvement in quality of life for so many people who suffer everywhere. That is the unique perspective that the IACM Patient Council can add to these talks and the decision-making process.”

Mr Krawitz concluded, emphasising both the scale of the opportunity and the importance of influencing change: “It is the only venue of its kind and provides access to key decision makers from close to half of the world’s governments all in one place at one time.

“It is now that we develop the vision and policy that will guide future access to cannabis. The treaty is no longer in the way of access, but like a massive freight train, we must now begin the process of turning drug policy around in the many countries of the world.”


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