The Vienna-based UN agency said in a statement that out of its 53 member states, 27 voted in support and 25 against the reclassification of the drug, with one abstention from Ukraine.
The US and European nations were among those who voted in favour, while China, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia were amongst the countries that opposed.
Canada and Uruguay have already legalised the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes and Mexico and Luxembourg appear set to follow suit.
The development comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January 2019 had recommended the deletion of “cannabis and cannabis resin” from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Substances classified as Schedule IV are a subset of Schedule I drugs. That means not only are they considered to be “highly addictive and highly liable for abuse,” they’re also labeled as “particularly harmful and of extremely limited medical or therapeutic value.”
“This is welcome news for the millions of people who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes and reflects the reality of the growing market for cannabis-based medicinal products,” a group of drug policy advocacy organizations said in a news release.
“We welcome the long-overdue recognition that cannabis is a medicine,” Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, said in a statement. “However, this reform alone is far from adequate given that cannabis remains incorrectly scheduled at the international level.”