United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Cannabis

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization formed to promote international stability, peace, and security amongst the nations, supporting the least developed nations, protecting the environment, economic development, and a lot more to make the world more developed, sustainable, and a better place to live in.

The UN executes various programs and agendas under its organization. One such agenda is development. In the year 2000, at the Millennium Summit, the UN introduced 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by 189 member States.

These goals were set to combat disease, hunger, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination against women, and environmental degradation. Specific indicators and targets were attached to the goals set. The target date to achieve these goals was set for the year 2015. 

What Were the 8 Millennium Development Goals?


Goal 1: to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger;

Goal 2: to achieve global primary education;

Goal 3: to empower women and promote gender equality;

Goal 4: to reduce child mortality;

Goal 5: to promote maternal health;

Goal 6: to fight malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases;

Goal 7: to promote environmental sustainability; and

Goal 8: to develop a universal partnership for development.

In 2012, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the progress on these 8 goals was discussed leading to the launch of a process to develop a set of new goals built upon the MDGs, later called Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Adopted in September 2015 by 193 member states of the UN, the SDGs were officially launched in 2016. They are a call-to-action for people worldwide to address five critical areas of importance by 2030: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.

The UN adopted the 17 SDGs and 169 targets as a bold and transformative step with an urgent need to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. These are interlinked global goals designed to be a

“blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.

They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social, and environmental. 

What Are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals?


Goal 1: No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Goal 4: Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5: Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.

Goal 10: Reduced Inequality: Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Goal 13: Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 14: Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15: Life on Land: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Goal 17: Partnerships to Achieve the Goal: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

The Sustainable Development Goals covers millions of topics under it. By 2030, the UN has resolved to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just, and inclusive societies; to protect human rights, and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Also, to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources; to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive, and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity, and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities. 

Researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemmouli takes an opportunity to analyze Cannabis, and its policies, using the Sustainable Development Goals as a relevant matrix. He summarizes and highlights the most important intertwining between Cannabis, its policies, and the 2030 Agenda, and the impact of the former on the latter through his toolkit “Sustainable Cannabis Policy Toolkit 2021”.

This article is a summary of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN and analyzes how Cannabis and its policies can be explored in policing these goals as discussed in Sustainable Cannabis Policy Toolkit 2021. 

Sustainable Development Goals and Cannabis


Cannabis is nothing but just a plant, yet it has a complicated history globally.

Countries all over the world have generalizations of morality-driven Cannabis policies. But the Cannabis sativa L. plant has accompanied humankind over centuries in its non-psychoactivity-related uses, in the form of hemp, industrial hemp, or industrial cannabis.

Because of its characteristics, widespread cultivation and use, and the diversity of its applications, Kenzi finds that the Cannabis sativa L. plant and its related policies directly trigger at least 64 of the 169 targets among 15 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.

Although Cannabis has a positive as well as a negative effect on the SDGs, the regulatory policies play a major role in determining which impact Cannabis has on our societies. 

Following are the few SDGs discussed by Kenzi which are interwoven with Cannabis and its policies:

  1. The provision of food from the seed (Goal 1&2);
  2. A traditionally recognized medicine and could be a diverse tool for practitioners (Goal 3);
  3. Training the legal Cannabis sector (Goal 4);
  4. Source of energy from the biomass produced by the stems of Cannabis (Goal 7);
  5. Industrial Cannabis generate thousands of jobs (Goal 8);
  6. Numerous products derived from fiber, locally sourced and produced efficient building material (Goals 9&11); 
  7. Hemp products as alternative green materials (Goal 12);
  8. Research on soil-cleaning properties of the roots contributing to clean water and oceans (Goal 13);
  9. A renewable source of recyclable vegetable plastic (Goal 15);

As the world is rising towards a Cannabis revolution, there are policies to be implemented sooner than we realize. Quick steps need to be taken all around the world. With the diversity of uses and products of the plant and the geographical imperatives, a one-size-fits-all policy neither seems desirable nor possible. 

Nonetheless, Cannabis and its policies are particular, complex, and emotional. They represent unprecedented and fundamentally multi-factorial issues. They require patience and a holistic, enlightened, and multidisciplinary consideration.

Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Advocate working towards social upliftment and sustainable development. Here to gather knowledge and write.

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