Diet approves legislation to make cannabis-based medicines legal

Japan’s parliament made a significant decision this week, passing a bill to legalize medical products derived from cannabis. This bill not only provides access to cannabis-based medicines for patients in need but also addresses a loophole in the country’s existing drug laws by criminalizing cannabis use.

Currently, drugs made from cannabis plants are only allowed in clinical trials in Japan. However, patient groups have been advocating for access to cannabis-derived medications, such as cannabidiol, which are already approved in Europe and the United States for conditions like severe epilepsy.

The revised laws, which will come into effect within a year of promulgation, designate cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as narcotics that will be regulated. This move marks a significant shift in Japan’s approach to cannabis-related substances.

While possession and cultivation of marijuana are already illegal in Japan, the country will now criminalize its use as well, imposing a prison sentence of up to seven years for violations. This stricter stance on cannabis reflects the government’s concerns about potential drug abuse, particularly among young people.

Previously, Japan did not penalize cannabis use, in part to protect farmers who may incidentally absorb the plant’s substances while growing it for use in hemp products. However, the government’s revised position acknowledges the need to address the growing concerns around drug abuse and the potential consequences of allowing cannabis use to go unchecked.

In addition to criminalizing cannabis use, the new laws also introduce two types of licenses for cannabis cultivation. One license is for those growing cannabis to produce medicines, while the other is for purposes such as hemp production. These changes aim to regulate the cultivation and use of cannabis-based products more effectively.

However, the legal changes associated with cultivation will not come into effect immediately. Instead, there will be a two-year period between the announcement and the implementation of these specific regulations.

Overall, Japan’s decision to legalize medical products derived from cannabis while also addressing the loophole in existing prohibitions against the drug represents a significant step for the country. This move has the potential to improve access to much-needed treatments for patients while also taking a more regulated approach to the use of cannabis-derived substances.

It remains to be seen how these changes will impact the medical landscape in Japan and whether they will effectively address the concerns around cannabis use and distribution. As with any significant legal shift, there will likely be ongoing discussions and assessments of the impact of these changes in the months and years to come.

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