Summary: Japan has passed a bill to legalize cannabis-based medicines, marking a significant revision of its stringent drug laws. The changes, approved by the upper house, will lift the ban on medical products derived from cannabis, allowing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for treating conditions like severe epilepsy. Concurrently, Japan has toughened its stance on recreational marijuana use, criminalizing consumption and closing a legal loophole.
Historic Shift in Japan’s Drug Policy: Legalizing Cannabis-Based Medicines, Banning Recreational Use
The recent legislative changes in Japan represent a landmark shift in the country’s approach to cannabis. While the new laws in Japan pave the way for cannabis-based medicines, particularly those containing CBD, they also introduce stricter measures against recreational marijuana use.
Cannabis-based medicines have been used overseas to treat various conditions, including severe epilepsy. The legalization of these medicines in Japan is a victory for patient groups that have long advocated for access to such treatments.
However, the revisions also signify a tightening of Japan’s cannabis policy. Marijuana consumption, which was technically legal due to a loophole intended to protect hemp farmers, has now been criminalized. This change comes in response to a rise in cannabis-related arrests, particularly among young people and teenagers. Under the revised laws, those caught using or possessing marijuana can face up to seven years in prison.
Health ministry statistics indicate a record 5,783 arrests related to cannabis in 2021, with a notable increase among younger demographics. The lack of penalties against consumption was previously cited by nearly 30% of those arrested as a factor in their decision to use marijuana.
The government hopes that these revisions will curb the growing trend of marijuana abuse among the youth. Japan’s Cannabis Control Act, introduced in 1948, reflects the country’s historically tough stance on illegal drugs, leading to heavy stigmatization of marijuana use. Compared to other countries like France and the United States, where marijuana use is more common, only 1.4% of people in Japan report having tried it.
The enactment of these laws marks a significant development in Japan’s drug policy, balancing the recognition of medical benefits of cannabis with stringent measures against its recreational use.
Source: The Times of India
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