A health ministry panel on Thursday in Japan says the country should change its ultra strict laws against drugs and permit medical cannabis treatment.
reports that the committee’s “recommendation was based on meeting medical needs and to harmonise Japan with international standards,” and that the “revision would apply to marijuana products whose safety and efficacy were confirmed under laws governing pharmaceuticals and medical devices.”
Such a revision “would be necessary for the use of the cannabis-derived epilepsy drug Epidiolex, which is currently undergoing clinical trials in Japan,” .
Japan has extremely strict laws against the use and importation of drugs, including marijuana.
In a report last year, noted that the country “has some of the most restrictive cannabis laws in East Asia, a region known for its intolerance of drugs.”
“None of the countries there are close to allowing recreational marijuana. But Taiwan and South Korea have both legalized medical marijuana amid mounting evidence of its efficacy. And China is the world’s largest producer of industrial hemp and related products. (CBD can be made, but not used, there,)” the Times .
, “Japan’s censorious attitude toward cannabis is relatively recent,” and that there “is no evidence that the plant was used in the past to get high, but hemp long figured in Japanese religious rituals, where it was valued as a symbol of purity.”
Marijuana use in Japan remains scarce, too. said that the health ministry committee’s report “noted that only 1.4% of people in Japan had ever used marijuana, compared to 20-40% in Western countries.”
But even that, represents a “tectonic shift” in attitudes among the Japanese, noting that the “number of Japanese who have reported using marijuana has more than doubled over the past decade.”
Japan Medical Cannabis Ban Creates Public Safety Hazard
There is also evidence that a growing number of people in the country are turning to synthetic cannabis alternatives, a trend highlighted in .
Synthetic cannabis compounds are not banned, according to Vice, and as “long as they are THC-free, products made from cannabis stems and stalks can be imported as oils or food.”
“Thanks to this loophole, synthetic cannabinoids that give similar or even greater highs than THC’s are flying under the radar and into Japanese pockets,” Vice reported.
That prompted the government to crack down.
The publication Journal Time that in March “the Japanese government banned HHC, a synthetic cannabis compound that became fashionable late last year after a rapper promoted it,” only for “a long line of HHC’s cousins (THC-O, HHC-O, THCV, and 9beta) soon emerged to replace HHC among Japanese users, underscoring the challenge of drug regulation in a country that sees weed as a ‘gateway’ to harder substances.”
The publication that advocates for cannabis reform in the country “blame this cannabidiol on the government’s strict ban on THC, they say it is forcing people to try derivatives that are more powerful and dangerous than marijuana products that have been used and studied for much longer.”
Thursday’s recommendation from the health ministry panel comes more than a year after the committee opted to criminalize marijuana “under revisions to Japan’s cannabis control law,” The Mainichi, a Japanese newspaper, at the time.
provided more background on the country’s drug policies: “While the current law enacted in 1948 prohibits the possession and cultivation of cannabis, there is no criminal punishment for its use, such as smoking it. The introduction of a provision banning using the drug had previously been put off as farmers who cultivate the plant, which is used to make hemp ‘shimenawa’ ropes for Shinto shrines and other uses, can inhale it as they work.”