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Monday February 26, 2024

Japan to legalise cannabis-based medicines

By AFP
December 08, 2023

TOKYO: Japan´s parliament has passed a bill to legalise cannabis-based medicines in a landmark revision of its stringent drug laws, while toughening its ban on recreational use of marijuana.

The changes to Japan´s cannabis and narcotics control laws passed on Wednesday in the upper house will pave the way for the lifting of a ban on medical products derived from cannabis.

People take placards in a march to call for the legalization of cannabis (marijuana) in the streets of Shibuya in Tokyo on May 4, 2023. — AFP
People take placards in a march to call for the legalization of cannabis (marijuana) in the streets of Shibuya in Tokyo on May 4, 2023. — AFP

Cannabis-based medicines, produced with the active ingredient cannabidiol, or CBD, are already used overseas to treat various conditions such as severe epilepsy. This is a win for patient groups that have campaigned for access to these medicines.

However, the changes amount to a tightening of Japan´s already tough cannabis policy. Marijuana consumption was criminalised, closing a loophole that officials partly blamed for a recent rise in cannabis-related arrests.

Prior to the revisions, inhaling marijuana had been technically legal, whereas possessing it was punishable by a jail term of up to five years. The loophole was originally introduced to prevent farmers from being arrested for accidentally inhaling psychoactive smoke when growing hemp. But alarmed by the recent spike in arrests over cannabis, especially among young people including teens, authorities decided to take things up a notch.