World Health Organization Verdict is in: CBD is NOT ADDICTIVE OR TOXIC


The World Health Organization (WHO) has been examining cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis marijuana, with results that are likely not shocking to those who understand the many potential benefits of CBD.


According to WHO, CBD is not addictive or toxic, and can be used therapeutically.


Important Findings from the CBD Report

The WHO Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review Report from November 2017 says:


“To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”


In the report, WHO says that CBD offers medical benefits without the potential risk of addiction, noting:


“In an animal drug discrimination model, CBD failed to substitute for THC. In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.”


The WHO report says CBD has “been demonstrated as an effective treatment for epilepsy” in adults, children, and animals, and there is preliminary evidence CBD could be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, psychosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.



Why WHO is Investigating CBD

According to the Cannabist, WHO has been arranging to examine CBD for a long time.


“At their annual meetings in 2016 and 2015, ECDD (Expert Committee on Drug Dependence) members requested further evaluation of the cannabis plant and its components,” the site reports. “Last year, the committee set an 18-month timetable to receive additional information and evidence to continue evaluation of cannabis, cannabis extracts and tinctures, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD and THC stereoisomers within the bounds of international drug control policy.”


Prior to this pre-review, cannabis had never been formally reviewed by the ECDD. However, according to the WHO’s Director-General in the November 25, 2016, recommendations letter, the committee has recognized an increase in the use of cannabis – and its components – for medical purposes, as well as the development of new cannabis-related pharmaceutical preparations to be used therapeutically.



Potential Ramifications of WHO’s Study

The WHO study is making waves with its potential ramifications on the legal and medicinal status of CBD. Both WHO and the ECDD, however, have been careful to caution that both of those subjects should be left up to the individual decisions of nations.


A major component of the pre-review is WHO’s declaration that CBD should not be a scheduled substance.


A WHO Q&A from December 2017 explains:


“At its November 2017 meeting, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) concluded that, in its pure state, cannabidiol does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm. As such, as CBD is not currently a scheduled substance in its own right (only as a component of cannabis extracts), current information does not justify a change in this scheduling position and does not justify scheduling of the substance.


“However, where CBD is produced for pharmaceutical purposes as an extract of cannabis, cannabis extracts and tinctures are included in the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. A fuller review of extracts or preparations containing almost exclusively CBD will take place in June 2018, when the WHO expert committee will undertake a comprehensive review of cannabis and cannabis related substances.


“Not scheduling a substance means that it is not subject to strict international controls, including for production and supply. Its legal status in countries is something for national legislators to decide. Some countries have eased regulations around cannabidiol, to consider products containing CBD to be medical products. These include Australia, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.”


A WHO spokesperson clarified to Newsweek:


“Saying it should not be scheduled for international control means that it should not be prohibited, at the international level, to produce and supply it for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research, given that WHO has not so far seen evidence of potential for abuse or harm from cannabidiol. As to what is legal or illegal, that comes under national law, so it is up to countries to decide.”


In the same Q&A, WHO explains that while it does not recommend cannabidiol for medical use until there is more evidence, “Initial evidence from animal and human studies (i.e. a controlled study in the New England Journal of Medicine and other reported individual cases) shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.”


And, in another ECDD report, the committee said, “There is increased interest from Member States in the use of cannabis for medical indications including for palliative care.”


Clearly, the WHO has interest in exploring CBD for its therapeutic uses. If this is met with more research and evidence, it could spur more countries into changing the legal status of CBD.



Reactions to the WHO Report

WHO’s report attracted attention from across the world.


Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told WebMD:


“It was terrific to see WHO acknowledge what other scientific research has already stated. While we are pleased to see the WHO finally acknowledge that absurdity of international restrictions, the continued domestic classification and criminalization of cannabidiol as a Schedule I controlled substance is out of step with both available science and common sense. It is yet another example of the U.S. government placing ideology over evidence when it comes to issues related to the cannabis plant.”


Raul Elizalde, medical marijuana advocate and hemp-CBD company president, spoke with the EDDC during the November 2017 meeting. Elizade has seen the effects of CBD firsthand, something he shared with the EDDC during the meeting.


“My daughter, Grace, has suffered all her life from epilepsy, and, believe me, I know about psychoactive drugs,” he told the committee. “I have been giving them to her a lot, and I have seen what they do. There’s no comparison with CBD, not even close. It will be a huge mistake to consider CBD psychoactive.”


After the report was released, he told, “The fact that they don’t want to schedule CBD is something great,” he said. “I think it should be treated the same way as Vitamin C.”



What Comes Next for CBD?

According to the Cannabist, an ECCD meeting is scheduled for May 2018. Committee Secretariat Dilkushi Poovendran told The Cannabist hat the meeting’s “Special Session on Cannabis” will include pre-reviews of cannabis plant and cannabis resin, extracts and tinctures of cannabis, delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and isomers of THC.


Legally, in the United States, as of May 2017, “federal and state laws regarding the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids are in conflict and have led to confusion among patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers. Currently, cannabis is legal for medical purposes in 50 per cent of the states, and another seventeen states allow products that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) for medical use.”


Ideally, with the WHO’s report and its indications, and further exploration into the potential benefits of CBD, its legal status will become clear in the future. With the possible therapeutic uses of CBD in the spotlight on an international scale, we can only hope that more organizations like WHO get involved in bringing these potential advantages to people who need them.

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