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Dec. 13, 1964 - Single Convention on Narcotics Comes Into Force

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

This Day in Cannabis History:

In the months of January 1961, representatives from 73 nations held a conference at the United Nations in New York with the aim of consolidating the numerous international drug-related treaties and laws into one over-arching new framework to monitor and limit the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution, use, and possession of "narcotic" drugs. Despite the objections of countries such as India and Morocco, cannabis was included among that list of narcotics.

Interestingly, while medicines containing cannabis were classified in Schedule I (limited to medical and scientific purposes, requiring governmental approval and/or medical prescription), the cannabis plant itself and its resin were instead classified in the most restrictive category, Schedule IV (recommending the prohibition of all uses including medical)—thus effectively enacting the first international prohibition of cannabis (as well as other natural plant medicines such as coca and opium poppies).

While the Single Convention was signed on March 30, 1961, it was on this day in 1964 that the treaty came into force. Other than some protocol amendments added in 1972, the Single Convention's prohibition of cannabis has remained a tenet of international drug law for 59 years...that is, until 11 days ago, when on December 2, 2020, The UN Commission for Narcotic Drugs finally voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV and reclassify it under Schedule I—an historic step toward the world's recognition of the plant's medicinal value and potential end of its long prohibition.


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