Japan Health Ministry Meet to Discuss Amendments to the Cannabis Control Act

Japan Health Ministry Meet to Discuss Amendments to the Cannabis Control Act - GCI Content Hub - Global Cannabis Intelligence

Following the meeting of a Health Ministry panel in Japan, recommendations have been submitted advising that laws pertaining to medical cannabis be amended.

Reuters report that the panel recommended the law be changed to enable the importation and use of medical cannabis products, for patients most in need.

Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived product for epilepsy created by GW Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Jazz Pharmaceuticals), is one of the medicines in question. Already undergoing clinical trials in Japan, drugs such as this – ones that have already been deemed as safe medicines under the rigorous scrutiny that govern pharmaceuticals – could be available to applicable patients, subject to regulatory change.

Japan Inching Towards New Cannabis Laws

Cannabis has been illegal in Japan since 1948, after the passing of the Cannabis Control Act.

Currently, the only exemptions granted to cultivate any form of cannabis are afforded to farmers licensed to grow hemp used to make items like sacred Japanese ropes for shrines, known as ‘shimenawa’.

However, critics and campaigners highlight that many stipulations under this law are outdated and do not serve the needs of modern-day patients, given the slew of scientific data and medical application of certain cannabis-based medicines.

Hokkaido Industrial Hemp Association (HIHA) publicly stated in January 2021 that “The Cannabis Control Act is a profoundly unreasonable law”, recommending “the development of a more reasonable law formulated based upon discussion that is made public to the citizens of Japan and upon scientific knowledge.”

Later that year in May, the Health Ministry’s expert panel convened to commence discussions around how they could bring about moderate changes to the Cannabis Control Act, to enable products such as Epidiolex – the first cannabis-derived medicine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – to become permissible for Japanese patients.

Wider Use of Cannabis in Japan

Despite the recent Health Committee report noting that only 1.4% of Japanese residents have tried the plant, cannabis-related crimes have been on the rise in Japan, with a record 5,034 offenders in 2020, according to the National Policy Agency.

The Japan Advocacy Network for Drug Policy have raised concerns about the strict nature by which people are currently dealt with under the Cannabis Control Act, as minor convictions could lead to severe difficulties in people gaining employment and housing, potentially trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty.

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