A webinar regarding the cannabis and cannabis resin rescheduling held by Beritasatu Media Holdings on June 25, 2021. (JG Screenshot/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

UN’s Cannabis Reclassification Does Not Mean Legalization: Gov’t


JUNE 28, 2021

Jakarta. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Friday that the scheduling change of cannabis and cannabis resin at the United Nations does not mean the legalization of the substance in Indonesia or many parts of the world.

In December 2020, the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) held the 63rd reconvened session to vote on removing cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Schedule IV refers to a list of the most dangerous narcotic drugs and having a great potential for abuse. By a razor-thin margin, the Commission decided to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV. Both narcotics now fall under Schedule I, the category of substances that are closely addictive and potentially abused or substances that can be converted into dangerous and addictive drugs.

Indonesia was not a CND member at the time but gave a statement expressing its disappointment at the outcome of the voting.

According to Rolliansyah Soemirat, the director for international security and disarmament at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  the news on cannabis scheduling change caused confusion among stakeholders and the public. Many had questioned whether CND’s decision meant cannabis legalization.

“That is not the case. The UN voted on its listing and control [on cannabis and cannabis resin], not its legalization. The substance is still under strict control despite the rescheduling as there are still risks of abuse,” Rolliansyah told a virtual conference on cannabis reclassification held by Beritasatu Media Holdings on Friday. 

“The rescheduling, however, has opened doors for countries to conduct more intensive scientific research on the plant’s medical properties. Period. It is unrelated to legalization,” he said.

Under Article 39 of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a state party is authorized to impose stricter control measures than what is agreed on in the convention. Indonesia, as with many like-minded countries, will hold onto this article in response to the rescheduling. 

“We will adhere to Article 39. Nationally, we still see the substance as something that is better treated as a Schedule IV [narcotics],” Rolliansyah said.

Addressing the next step for cannabis rescheduling would also require all stakeholders and the public to discuss together, Rolliansyah noted.

“An international decision is one thing, but the implemented national regulation is another thing. We have to continue pursuing open communication and information dissemination by involving all parties,” he said.

At the 63rd CND reconvened session on cannabis and cannabis resin scheduling, 27 out of 53 countries, including the US and Canada, were in favor. Other 25 countries, including Turkey, were against the proposal. Only Ukraine abstained from voting. 

What About its Medical Uses?

The government has yet to conduct research on cannabis for medical purposes. Agusdini Banun Saptaningsih, director for distribution for pharmaceutical production and distribution at the Ministry of Health, said the study would have to wait for a health ministry regulation.

“The health ministry regulation on the possible use of cannabis for research and scientific purposes is currently being discussed. But in its drafting, we will have to coordinate with the National Narcotics Agency [BNN], the Indonesian Police, academics, and researchers,” Agusdini said.