Japan reforms its cannabis control law

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At the end of October, the Japanese government approved several amendments to its cannabis control law:

1. Cannabis for medical purposes: Epidiolex will be integrated into the Japanese medical system and made available to children who need it. Sativex and Marinol are unlikely to advance as they contain THC, with the Japanese government still very much against THC

2. Change in regulation of cannabinoids other than THC: Japanese regulations regarding cannabinoids will shift from “parts-based” regulations of the plant, which only allowed products/ingredients from the stem and the seed has regulation based on ingredients. The conclusion is that CBD extracted from the flower, leaves or resin can be imported into Japan legally, as long as the product does not contain any THC. Delta-8 / Delta-9 / HHC / THCV and analogues will remain illegal.

3. Use and crime: Currently, Japanese law states that “possession” and “cultivation” of cannabis are crimes. Usage is not. With the new proposal, in theory, a urine test could prove cannabis “use.” The practical application of this law could, however, be different from what the initial text intends.

4. Promotion of hemp cultivation in Japan: The Japanese government is willing to establish a framework to promote hemp cultivation in Japan. The final products will most likely be seeds/fiber.

What impacts will these amendments have?

If the CBD trade is widespread in Japan, the restrictions around the total absence of THC strongly constrain the market, which does not escape synthetic neocannabinoids. With the latest decisions by the Japanese government, the market for CBD and natural cannabinoids is expected to grow significantly. Major retailers, media and ancillary industries will accept CBD products.

Japan will, however, be much stricter with regard to D8/D9/THC analogues and less with CBD.

The return to favor of hemp in Japan

If the Japanese government takes measures for the Japanese hemp industry, the hemp growers did not wait for it, as reported by The Japan News.

Tochigi Prefecture in Japan, particularly known for hemp cultivation, has seen a significant decline in the number of hemp farmers, from a peak of 6,000 to just 12 today. Most of the remaining farmers are between 60 and 70 years old.

Yoshinori Omori, a 44-year-old hemp farmer from a family that has been growing hemp for several generations, expressed concern about the potential disappearance of hemp farmers in Japan, speaking to The Japan News. To address this issue, Omori is working to create new hemp products to attract younger generations to the industry, with the aim of expanding the use of hemp in various applications such as paper, building materials and packaging.

Meanwhile, in Mie Prefecture, the town of Meiwa has expressed interest in becoming a hemp cultivation center. Although it delivered hemp to the local Ise Jingu Shrine in the past, the town no longer has hemp farmers. Meiwa Municipal Council, Mie University and local farmers therefore collaborated on a hemp cultivation project, planting hemp on a 6,000 square meter plot.

Shingo Matsumoto, an executive at agricultural company Iseasa, led the project, emphasizing that hemp was a Japanese tradition.

Hitoshi Nitta, professor at Kogakkan University, highlighted the importance of the government’s efforts to preserve the history of hemp in the country by disseminating accurate knowledge and eliminating prejudices and misunderstandings surrounding cultivated hemp by licensees.

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