Japan Passes Legislation to Legalize Marijuana-Derived Medicines

The Japanese National Diet, during its regular session, has successfully passed a legislative amendment aimed at legalizing marijuana-derived medicines. The amendment seeks to address existing legal gaps regarding penalties for recreational use.

Until now, Japan only permitted marijuana-derived drugs for clinical trials, but patients have long sought access, particularly to cannabidiol (CBD) products derived from the plant. These products, approved for use in Europe and the United States, are known to treat conditions such as severe epilepsy.

Under the new amendment, the use of marijuana-derived medicines will be allowed, and cultivation of the plant will also be permitted to gather raw materials for pharmaceuticals and other products. The amendment received majority support in the Japanese House of Representatives this Wednesday, backed by the ruling coalition.

The revision to the Cannabis Control Act will take effect one year after promulgation, introducing new regulations concerning marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive substance found in the cannabis plant.

In a groundbreaking move for the country, these substances will be categorized as narcotics, subject to regulations under the National Control of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act, prohibiting and penalizing possession, transfer, or consumption of these substances.

While cultivation, possession, and sale of marijuana have been prohibited and penalized in Japan, the use of these specific substances has not been punished. This will change after the legal revision, with recreational use potentially leading to imprisonment for up to seven years.

The reason for the absence of penalties for marijuana use in Japan has been the wide traditional uses of hemp cultivation, such as for clothing, seasoning, or significant Shinto-related religious ceremonies.

However, in response to a rise in arrests related to marijuana, particularly among individuals in their twenties, Japanese authorities have decided to regulate this. The new changes will introduce two different marijuana cultivation licenses, one for pharmaceutical production and another for various purposes, including the manufacturing of hemp products such as clothing.

These legislative changes related to marijuana cultivation will take effect two years after promulgation.