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Japanese Health Officials Propose Revision of Law To Allow Import, Medical Cannabis

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare stated on Sept. 29 that it recommends an amendment to the country’s drug law, known as the Cannabis Control Act. According to ReutersThe agency stated that cannabis should be allowed to be imported for medical purposes. This would allow it to join other countries with established programs.

Medical cannabis would be regulated like pharmaceuticals, and “would apply to marijuana products whose safety and efficacy were confirmed under laws governing pharmaceuticals and medical devices,” according to Reuters.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare published translated documents on September 28th. These documents show that a wide range of people contributed to the review and made recommendations, which included professors and doctors. The report shows that only 1.4% Japanese have used cannabis. In western countries, consumer percentages range between 20-40%.

In the U.S., Epidiolex is the first CBD medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating children with epilepsy, and specifically those who suffer from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet’s syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex. Epidiolex has been in clinical trials in Japan since March 2019. However, there are no additional reports. The trials are exempt from the country’s Cannabis Control Act, which prohibits cannabis import/export and consumption. According to the report, there were 3,000 Dravet-related residents in the country and 4300 Lennox–Gastaut related.

The Cannabis Control Act, in its current form is restricting all progress related to cannabis.

In January 2021, the Hokkaido Industrial Hemp Association (HIHA) released a statement addressing the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare’s investigation on cannabis and other drugs. “The Cannabis Control Act is a profoundly unreasonable law that restricts all cannabis regardless of the quantity or even presence of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana, the chemical synthetic substance of which are designated as an illegal drug in Japan), and even prohibits the cultivation of hemp from overseas (see note below) containing none of this substance,” HIHA wrote. “First, concerning the Cannabis Control Act and problems with its application, we would like to recommend the development of a more reasonable law formulated based upon discussion that is made public to the citizens of Japan and upon scientific knowledge.”

HIHA found that since 1948, the Cannabis Control Act has been preventing the growth of the hemp industry. “In order to develop a hemp industry on par with those overseas and protect national interests concerning industrial hemp, this country must revise the Cannabis Control Act and other related laws as soon as possible, position the hemp industry appropriately within the legal system, and strike a balance between the control of drugs and the encouragement of industry.”

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare published a report in August 2021 that detailed their suggestions for legalizing medical marijuana for patients. The ministry met earlier this year to review medical cannabis. It also discussed how youth use can be addressed.

Capcom, an online gaming platform, joined forces with Osaka Prefectural Police on December 20, 2021 in order to make Ace Attorney the Osaka Prefectural Police’s fictional anti-cannabis youth use campaigner. According to the Japanese National Police Agency, there were 5,482 people who were caught violating the country’s cannabis law (4,537 were in possession of cannabis, while 273 were illegally selling the plant, and 230 were arrested for illegally cultivating). Japan banned Paul McCartney, a member of the Beatles band, from possessing more than half a pound cannabis in 1980.