Japan plans to legalize medical cannabis

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The Japanese Ministry of Health is considering legalizing medical cannabis, while proposing to strengthen the criminalization of its recreational use.

A group of ministry experts met on May 25 to begin discussions on revising the Cannabis Control Act, enacted in 1948.

The move comes as the ministry drafted a report in June 2021 recommending the government allow the use of cannabis-containing drugs to treat intractable epilepsy.

Japan’s health ministry plans to draft proposals to revise the cannabis control law as early as this summer.

A strict prohibition

Current Japanese law prohibits the cultivation and possession of cannabis as well as the manufacture of cannabis-based medicines. The ban applies to the flowers, leaves, roots and uncultivated stem of the cannabis plant.

All G7 countries except Japan have authorized the use of epilepsy drugs that contain cannabis, most often only CBD with Epidyolex.

However, the country does not want to end prohibition and is seeking to add a new provision to the Cannabis Control Act to criminalize the use of non-medical cannabis.

Some experts, however, are calling for more treatment for addicts to prevent recidivism, instead of imposing criminal penalties, citing data that shows many cannabis users in Japan are young people.

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