Summary:

Following its first-ever critical review of cannabis,in January 2019 the World Health Organization issued a collection of formal recommendations to reschedule cannabis and cannabis-related substances. 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), 11 of which are African states, are set to vote on these recommendations in December 2020.

Among the WHO’s recommendations, two in particular appear to be the most urgent and relevant for African countries: namely recommendations 5.1 (acknowledging cannabis’ medicinal usefulness) and 5.4 (concerning the need to remove the term ‘extracts and tinctures of cannabis’ from the Convention). Supporting these two recommendations presents an opportunity for African governments and civil society to further decolonise drug control approaches on the continent, as well as to strengthen the international legal basis for emerging medicinal cannabis programmes in several African countries.

In this regard, the recommended principle ‘asks’ for African advocates and policy makers are to:

• Support the most urgent recommendations 5.1 and 5.4.

• Actively engage with CND members, in particular the 11 African members of CND, emphasising the urgent nature of recommendations 5.1 and 5.4.

• Actively engage in relevant meetings and processes at the CND level, as well as emphasising the need for further followups to the critical review.

• Actively engage and encourage support from other African governments and other key stakeholders such as the African Union, as well relevant civil society organisations, experts, and affected communities.