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Hungry faces court action over cannabis scheduling vote


The European Commission has decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union for voting against the Union’s position on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations on scheduling cannabis and cannabis-related substances. The decision was outlined in the Council Decision (EU) 2021/3.



The vote on the WHO recommendations took place on 2 December 2020, during the reconvened 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Hungary voted against the Union’s position twice during the vote on the WHO recommendations in the listing of the substances under international control. Under EU law, the decisions on the international scheduling of substances under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, fall under the exclusive competence of the European Union.



The Council’s decision determining the Union’s position is binding on the EU Member States in line with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary with a letter of formal notice sent on 18 February 2021, followed by a reasoned opinion on 12 November 2021. As the reply from the Hungarian authorities to both the letter of formal notice and reasoned opinion was unsatisfactory, the Commission has decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to fulfil its obligations under the Council decision and acting in breach of the exclusive external competence of the Union as well as the principle of sincere cooperation.



The World Health Organization presented six recommendations concerning the rescheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, on 24 January 2019. The Council adopted Council Decision (EU) 2021/3 on the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union, at the reconvened 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, on the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances on 23 November 2020.



The decision was addressed to the Member States in accordance with the Treaties and, according to Article 288 TFEU, was binding in its entirety for the Member States who were called upon to vote in the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Hungary's decision to vote against the Union’s position has led to the current legal action by the European Commission.



The Commission’s action underscores the importance of the principle of sincere cooperation and respect for the exclusive competence of the Union in external affairs. The Court of Justice of the European Union will now assess the situation and make a ruling on the matter.

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