Japanese Health Ministry Mulls Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Use

Japanese Health Ministry Mulls Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Use

"The health ministry is seeking to legalize marijuana for medical use in Japan while considering introducing a new legal provision to criminalize its usage for recreational purposes. 

The ministry’s expert panel met on May 25 to begin discussions on revising the Cannabis Control Law, which was enacted in 1948. 

The move comes as the ministry in June 2021 compiled a report recommending that the government allow the use of drugs that contain substances of marijuana to treat refractory epilepsy as the United States and other countries have approved such medications.

This summer, the ministry plans to draft proposals to revise the Cannabis Control Law.

The current law prohibits the cultivation and possession of cannabis as well as the manufacturing of medicines made from it. The ban targets the spikes, leaves, roots and ungrown stalk of the cannabis plant.

But those parts of the plant contain substances that can be used for medications. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a hallucinogen, is believed to be harmful to people’s mental health, while cannabidiol (CBD), another substance, is thought to cause little harm to humans.

All the Group of Seven countries, excluding Japan, have authorized the use of epilepsy drugs that contain CBD derived from marijuana.

When revising the Cannabis Control Law, the ministry intends to ban certain substances of marijuana instead of parts of the cannabis plant to make it easier for people to use marijuana for medical purposes.

But those legal revisions could also help spread the use of marijuana, including drugs containing THC.

THC is mixed into some imported drugs offered online that are supposed to contain only CBD, posing challenges in cracking down on such products.

The panel will also discuss adding a new provision to the Cannabis Control Law to criminally punish the use of marijuana, except for medicinal purposes.

The law has had no such penal provisions since concerns were raised when the law took effect that farmers growing the cannabis plant could be punished for symptoms resulting from unintentionally inhaling substances of marijuana.

But no substances of marijuana were detected in urine tests on those farmers, according to a survey conducted by the ministry in 2019.

Offenders would face severe punishment if the new provision is introduced.

But some experts are calling for offering more treatment to those addicted to marijuana to prevent repeat offenses, instead of imposing criminal penalties, citing data that shows many users of marijuana in Japan are young people."

-Kai Ichino, Staff Writer at The Asahi Shimbun

May 26, 2022

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