CND 60th Session Reconvened – Friday, 8 December 2017

Note: As the reconvened meeting is mainly concerned with administrative issues, this blog entry summarises the discussions rather than providing the usual detailed account of every intervention and statement.

Following the informal discussions on Thursday 7th, the resolution approving the UNODC budget for 2018-2019 was approved. The USA highlighted the decision that UNODC must reconsider and revise their proposal to remove “General Purpose” funding for their Research, Data and Analysis Branch.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) then presented on the recommendations and feedback from the 39th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) meeting in November. They spoke about the tole of WHO within the UN drug control conventions, and also highlighted the issue of new psychoactive substances (NPS). Of the reported NPS from UNODC’s early warning system from 2014 to 2016, the most commonly  reported substances have now been scheduled or are under surveillance or review. The most undocumented NPS are synthetic cannabinoids, of which there are more than 350 on the list but very little information on use or harms in order for the ECDD to make recommendations. Many member states, however, have national legislation in place to control NPS – including generic legislation on groups of substances – and this is helping to deal with this and is “very much encouraged”.

Gilles Fortes from WHO then outlined the latest recommendations from the ECDD, In November, they have recommended that carfentanil be added to Schedule I and IV of the 1961 Convention. They considered five other fentanyls and recommended them for scheduling in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention. They recommended five synthetic cannabinoids to be added to Schedule 2 of the 1971 Convention, alongside 4-FA (a derivative of amphetamine). They decided to keep Etizolam (a benzodiazepine) under surveillance, and they decided to proceed to a “critical review” for both Pregabalin and Tramadol. For the latter, Gilles reiterated the particular impact that scheduling could have on lower income countries, and emergency settings where Tramadol is widely available as a cheap and uncontrolled pain medicine.

The ECDD also considered CBD in November, and noted that there were no reports of abuse or public health problems, and no evidence that CBD is liable to abuse similar to scheduled drugs like cannabis and THC. CBD is also being actively explored for a range of therapeutic uses – including epilepsy. CBD was described as being an extract of cannabis, and therefore included in the 1961 Convention – but the ECDD decided to move to a “critical review” of extracts and preparations of cannabis almost exclusively containing CBD. This will be on the agenda for the 40th ECDD meeting in May/June 2018, focused entirely on cannabis. This next meeting will specifically look at cannabis plant and resin, extracts and tinctures of cannabis, THC, stereoisomers of THC, and now also the “critical review” of CBD. A public call for authors for the pre-reviews was issues, and 31 applications were received.

Egypt then intervened on the issue of tramadol, saying that serious action was needed, and citing a number of tramadol-related deaths in their country.

Ecuador talked about ketamine (which was not part of the WHO presentations), noting the greater levels of abuse being reported but also calling for more in-depth analysis and coordination regarding the impacts of scheduling on countries that widely use ketamine as an anaesthetic medicine, especially in remote and poorer areas.

Russia highlighted that tramadol is widely used as an important pain medicine, and this needs to be taken into account.

USA highlighted the importance of the ECDD recommendation on carfentanyl, and the proliferation of NPS. They noted that scheduling is a “double-edged sword” and medicines must be available for pain and suffering, but that the opioid crisis has had horrible results.

China then returned to the issue of ketamine, stating that their calls for international scheduling are not for the purpose of affecting legitimate medical use, but to tackle abuse. As far as they know, ketamine is a very good medicine in lots of settings – but is not the only available option as has been reported in the media. China hopes that member states can provide more data on abuse.

The CND Secretariat then presented a request from Argentina, under Article 12, Paragraph 3 of the 1988 Convention, to include three substances to the schedules: APAA, PMK glycinate, and hydrogen iodide. A ‘note verbale’ will follow soon for member states. Argentina then spoke to clarify that these three precursors have been identified in their country.

The Chair (Bente Angell-Hansen from Norway) then updated member states on her ongoing communications with ECOSOC. She reminded member states that the CND Resolution 60/1 was now in the Fifth Committee for review, and asked for their support. The dates for the 61st CND were then confirmed: the regular session will take place from 12th to 16th March 2018 (with pre-session consultations on the 9th March), and the reconvened will take place on 5th and 6th December 2018. The deadline for submission of resolutions is therefore the 12th February 2018, at noon. The draft agenda for the 61st CND is contained within ECOSOC Decision 2017/242. Bente has also produced a Conference Room Paper based on her non-paper and subsequent discussions and consultations with the regional groups, to support discussions in March towards agreeing the modalities for 2019.

Any Other Business: Russia spoke about the ‘Parliamentarians Against Drugs’ conference in Moscow on 4th December, and urged that inter-parliamentarian contacts should be sustained on this issue. They thanks Yury Fedotov (UNODC Executive Director) for this support, and also the engagement of civil society.

With that, Bente closed the 60th CND and handed over to the new Chair, the Mexican Ambassador, to open the 61st CND. There then followed a series of statements of appreciation from countries for Bente’s hard work and diligent consensus-building throughout 2016, and a standing ovation for her at the end. Mexico were confirmed as the Chair of CND for 2018, with Kenya as the 1st Vice-Chair, and Netherlands as the Rapporteur.

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