Japan took a major step towards legalizing medical marijuana this week, as the Lower House passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow the use of pharmaceutical products derived from cannabis. The bill specifically paves the way for the approval of Epidiolex, a drug containing cannabidiol (CBD) that is used to treat severe forms of epilepsy.
While the new law opens the door to medical marijuana, it also aims to crack down on recreational use, which remains strictly prohibited in Japan. The bill would close a loophole in the country’s 1948 Cannabis Control Law, which banned the possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis but did not explicitly prohibit its use. Under the new legislation, using cannabis would be criminalized and punishable by up to 7 years in prison.
Japan has maintained a zero-tolerance policy on recreational marijuana use, despite the traditional cultivation of industrial hemp in the country. In recent years, police have aggressively targeted cannabis users – as highlighted by the recent high-profile arrests of two university football players for possession.
The bill passed Japan’s Lower House with support from most major parties, though some opposition remains. Experts cautioned that penalizing youth for cannabis use could ostracize them and make rehabilitation difficult. To address these concerns, the bill includes provisions to support offenders through drug education and job assistance programs.
The legislation now heads to Japan’s Upper House. If approved there, the new medical marijuana rules could take effect by late 2023. While marking a milestone, the law underscores the wide gap between Japan’s strict anti-drug stance and the growing acceptance of cannabis in parts of North America, Europe and elsewhere in Asia. Recreational use remains off the table for now – but Tuesday’s vote cracks the door open to cannabis in Japan.
Source: Japan Times