Scheduling procedures

I. Overview

1. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs exercises its mandated treaty-based "scheduling" functions under agenda item entitled "Implementation of the international drug control treaties: Changes in the scope of control of substances". Under that agenda item the Commission considers proposals to add substances to the schedules/tables or to transfer or delete substances from the schedules/tables.

2. The three main international drug control treaties are: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol (1961 Convention); the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 (1971 Convention); and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 (1988 Convention). [1]

3. States parties to these conventions are required to ensure that the mandatory control measures are applied to substances listed in the schedules (for the 1961 and 1971 Conventions) and tables (for the 1988 Convention) which are annexed to these conventions.

4. Decisions to change the scope of control of substances are taken by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which is also authorized to consider all matters pertaining to the aims of the international drug control conventions. [2] The procedures applicable to changes in the scope of control of substances are established by the following articles:

5. As the procedure for changes in the scope of control of substances under the 1961 and the 1971 Conventions are similar, it will be explained here under the same heading. The procedure for changes in the scope of control of substances under the 1988 Convention is explained under a separate heading.

II. Changes in the scope of control of substances under the 1961 and 1971 Conventions

6. Under the 1961 and 1971 Conventions, the request to change the scope of control of substances can be initiated either by a Party or by the World Health Organization (WHO). [3]

Notification/Initiative

7. The "initiator" notifies the Secretary-General and furnishes him with the information in support of the notification. [4] Upon receipt, the Secretary-General transmits that notification and any relevant information to the Parties (in form of a note verbale), to the Commission (in form of a Note by the Secretariat) and, when the notification is made by a Party, to the WHO. [5]

Risk assessment

8. The WHO has an important role under the 1961 and 1971 Conventions in reviewing the harmful effects of substances and making recommendations to the CND as to the scope of international control. Further information on the role of WHO is contained in the Guidance on the WHO Review of Psychoactive Substances for International Control [6] .

9. To enable the Commission to take a decision on these matters, it has before it a Note by the Secretariat on the changes in the scope of control of substances. This note contains the notification and supplementary information transmitted by the Party or WHO to the Secretary-General, as well as additional information on the proposed changes in the scope of control of substances provided by Member States, in response to the note verbale transmitted by the Secretary-General.

Previous Notes by the Secretariat on changes in the scope of control of substances

- 2001 : E/CN.7/2001/6

- 2003 : E/CN.7/2003/12 | E/CN.7/2003/12/Add.1

- 2007 : E/CN.7/2007/10 | E/CN.7/2007/10/Add.1

- 2007: E/CN.7/2007/10/Add.2

- 2010 : E/CN.7/2010/12

- 2013: E/CN.7/2013/11 | E/CN.7/2013/11/Add.1

Control measures: Action to be taken by the Commission under the 1961 and 1971 Conventions

10. In the case of changes in the scope of control of substances under the 1961 and the 1971 Conventions, the Commission decides whether a substance is to be placed under international control. Under the 1961 Convention, it can either accept the recommendation of the WHO concerning changes in the scope of control of substances or abstain from extending control at all. The CND cannot decide to add a substance or preparation to a schedule of the 1961 Convention if WHO has not recommended to do it. [7]

11. Under the 1971 Convention, the Commission has more discretion. It may decide - contrary to a recommendation of WHO - to add a substance to a schedule of the 1971 Convention or refuse to do so, to add a substance to a different schedule than recommended, or to remove a substance from the schedule in which it is listed or refuse to do so. However, the CND has to take into account the assessment from the WHO, which shall be determinative as to medical and scientific matters, and to bear in mind the economic, social, legal, administrative and other factors communicated to it by the Parties. The Commission may also decide to seek further information from the WHO or from other appropriate sources. [8]

11. Pursuant to article 3 of the 1961 Convention and article 2 of the 1971 Convention, the Commission takes decisions in the scope of control of substances by voting, [9] in the following manner:

  • A two-thirds majority of the members of the Commission is required for such decisions under the 1971 Convention.
  • In the absence of specific provisions to that effect under the 1961 Convention, a single majority of the members of the Commission is sufficient for decisions to add, transfer or delete substances to or from the schedules annexed to the 1961 Convention. [10]

Nevertheless, the Commission may decide by consensus not to vote on recommendations concerning changes to the scope of control of substances. For example, the CND, at its 50th session in 2007, decided by consensus not to vote on a WHO recommendation to move dronabinol and its stereoisomers from Schedule II to Schedule III of the 1971 Convention and requested WHO to undertake a review of these substances when additional information became available. After discussion, the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence of the WHO decided at its thirty-fifth meeting in June 2012 that its previous recommendation on dronabinol still stood, and that members of the Committee were unaware of any new evidence that was likely to alter the previous scheduling recommendation. Below is a relevant excerpt from the text of CND decision 50/2:

CND decision 50/2

Review of dronabinol and its stereoisomers

"At its 1277th meeting, on 14 March 2007, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs decided by consensus:

(a) Not to vote on the recommendation of the World Health Organization to transfer dronabinol and its stereoisomers from Schedule II to Schedule III of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971;

(b) To request the World Health Organization, in consultation with the International Narcotics Control Board, as appropriate, to undertake, for consideration by the Commission, a review of dronabinol and its stereoisomers when additional information became available."

12. Once the Commission has taken decisions concerning the scope of control of substances, any such decision is communicated by the Secretary-General to all States Members of the United Nations, to non-member States Parties to the Conventions, to the WHO and to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). [11]

13. Decisions taken concerning the scope of control of substances of the schedules of the 1961 Convention, become effective with respect to each Party on the date of its receipt of such communication; decisions taken concerning the 1971 Convention become effective 180 days after the date of such communication. [12]

14. Decisions concerning the scope of control of substances taken by the Commission are subject to review by the Economic and Social Council, upon the request of any Party filed within 90 days from receipt of notification of the decision in the case of the 1961 Convention, and within 180 days in the case of the 1971 Convention. [13] In that case, the Council may confirm, alter or reverse the decision of the Commission, and the decision of the Council shall be final. [14]

III. Changes in the scope of control of substances under the 1988 Convention

15. Under the 1988 Convention, the request to change the scope of control of substances can be initiated either by a Party or by INCB. [15]

Notification/Initiative

16. The "initiator" notifies the Secretary-General and furnishes him with the information in support of the notification. [16] Upon receipt, the Secretary-General transmits that notification and any relevant information to the Parties (in form of a note verbale), to the Commission (in form of a Note by the Secretariat) and, when the notification is made by a Party, to the INCB. [17]

17. The Parties shall then communicate their comments concerning the notification to the Secretary-General, together with all supplementary information which may assist the INCB in establishing an assessment and the Commission in reaching a decision. [18]

Risk assessment

18. The INCB has an important role under the 1988 Convention in making a finding on whether a substance is frequently used in the illicit manufacture of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance and whether the volume and extent of the illicit manufacture of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance creates serious public or social problems, so as to warrant international action. [19]

19. To enable the Commission to take a decision on these matters, it has before it a Note by the Secretariat on the changes in the scope of control of substances. This note contains the notification and supplementary information transmitted by the Party or INCB to the Secretary-General, as well as additional information on the proposed changes in the scope of control of substances provided by Member States, in response to the note verbale transmitted by the Secretary-General to Member States. (See paragraph 8, above).

Control measures: Action to be taken by the Commission under the 1988 Convention

20. In the case of changes in the scope of control of substances under the 1988 Convention, the Commission, when taking a decision, takes into account the assessment from the INCB, which shall be determinative as to scientific matters, and takes into due consideration any other relevant factors. [20]

21. Pursuant to article 12(5) of the 1988 Convention, the Commission may decide changes to the scope of control of substances in the tables by a two-thirds majority of its members. In the past ten years, the Commission has always taken decisions regarding changes to the scope of control of substances under the 1988 Convention by voting. [21]

22. Once the Commission has taken decisions concerning the scope of control of substances, any such decision is communicated by the Secretary-General to all States and other entities which are, or which are entitled to become, Parties to the 1988 Convention, and to the INCB. [22]

23. Decisions taken concerning the scope of control of substances of the tables of the 1988 Convention become fully effective with respect to each Party 180 days after the date of such communication. [23]

24. Decisions concerning the scope of control of substances taken by the Commission are subject to review by the Economic and Social Council, upon the request of any Party filed within 180 days from receipt of notification of the decision. [24] In that case, the Council may confirm or reverse the decision of the Commission. [25]

IV. Additional information and references

25. Between 2000 and 2013, the Commission considered changes in the scope of control of substances at five occasions:

(a) In 2001, the Commission decided to include 4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine (2C-B), α-methyl-4-methylthiophenethylamine (4-MTA), γ-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and zolpidem in different schedules of the 1971 convention, [26] upon recommendation of WHO. It also decided to transfer acetic anhydride and potassium permanganate from Table II to Table I of the 1988 Convention, [27] upon recommendation by INCB.

(b) In 2003, the Commission followed a recommendation of WHO and decided to include amineptine in Schedule II of the 1971 Convention. [28]

(c) In 2007, it decided to include oripavine in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention. [29] However, it also decided not to vote on the recommendation of WHO to transfer dronabinol and its stereoisomers from one schedule of the 1971 Convention to another, instead requesting WHO, in consultation with INCB, as appropriate, to undertake, for consideration by the Commission, a review of these substances when additional information became available. [30]

(d) In 2010, the Commission decided, upon recommendation of INCB, to transfer phenylacetic acid from Table II to Table I of the 1988 Convention. [31]

(e) In 2013, the Commission decided, upon recommendation of WHO, to transfer gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) from Schedule IV to Schedule II of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971. [32]

All resolutions and decisions adopted by the CND, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly on drug-related issues, are available on the following website:

http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/commissions/CND/09-resolutions.html


[1] Full text published in "The International Drug Control Conventions", United Nations Publication.

[2] See article 8, 1961 Convention; article 17(1), 1971 Convention; and article 21, 1988 Convention.

[3] Article 3(1), 1961 Convention; article 2(1), 1971 Convention.

[4] Article 3(1), 1961 Convention; article 2(1), 1971 Convention.

[5] Article 3(2), 1961 Convention ; article 2(2), 1971 Convention.

[6] It is recommended that this information note be read in conjunction with the Guidance on the WHO Review of Psychoactive Substances for International Control, which provides further information on the role of the World Health Organization in reviewing substances and making recommendations to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs regarding changes in the scope of control of substances.

[7] Article 3(3)-3(6), 1961 Convention. See also the Commentary on the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 , pp. 85-97.

[8] Article 2(4)-2(6), 1971 Convention. See also the Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances , pp. 45-72.

[9] Decisions can be taken by show of hands or roll-call. Roll-call procedure shall be taken in the English alphabetical order of the names of the States represented on the commission, beginning with the State whose name is drawn by lot by the Chairman. The representative shall reply "yes", "no" or "abstention".

[10] See Rule 58(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of ECOSOC.

[11] Article 3(7), 1961 Convention; article 2(7), 1971 Convention.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Article 3(8)(a), 1961 Convention; article 2(8)(a), 1971 Convention.

[14] Article 3(8)(c), 1961 Convention; article 2(8)(c), 1971 Convention.

[15] Article 12 (2), 1988 Convention.

[16] Article 12 (2), 1988 Convention.

[17] Article 12(3), 1988 Convention.

[18] Article 12 (3), 1988 Convention.

[19] Article 12 (4), 1988 Convention.

[20] Article 12(4) and (5), 1988 Convention.

[21] See CND decisions 44/5, 44/6 and 53/1.

[22] Article 12(6), 1988 Convention.

[23] Article 12(6), 1988 Convention.

[24] Article 12(7)(a), 1988 Convention.

[25] Article 12(7)(c), 1988 Convention.

[26] CND decisions 44/1, 44/2, 44/3 and 44/4.

[27] CND decisions 44/5 and 44/6.

[28] CND decision 46/1.

[29] CND decision 50/1.

[30] CND decision 50/2.

[31] CND decision 53/1.

[32] CND decision 56/1.