Health Department plans to legalize medical marijuana

The Ministry of Health is seeking to legalize medical marijuana in Japan while considering introducing a new legal provision to criminalize its recreational use.

The ministry’s panel met on May 25 to begin discussions on revising the Cannabis Control Act, enacted in 1948.

The move comes as the ministry wrote a report in June 2021 recommending that the government allow the use of drugs containing marijuana substances to treat intractable epilepsy, as the United States and other countries have approved such drugs.

This summer, the ministry plans to draft proposals to revise the Cannabis Control Act.

Current law prohibits the cultivation and possession of cannabis as well as the manufacture of drugs made from it. The ban targets the uncultivated cobs, leaves, roots and stems of the cannabis plant.

But these parts of the plant contain substances that can be used for medicine. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a hallucinogen, is said to be harmful to mental health, while cannabidiol (CBD), another substance, is said to be of little harm to humans.

All of the Group of Seven countries except Japan have authorized the use of epilepsy drugs containing marijuana-derived CBD.

In revising the Cannabis Control Act, the ministry intends to ban certain substances from marijuana instead of parts of the cannabis plant to facilitate the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

But these legal revisions could also help spread the use of marijuana, including drugs containing THC.

THC is mixed with some imported drugs offered online that are supposed to contain only CBD, which causes problems in suppressing these products.

The panel will also discuss adding a new provision to the Cannabis Control Act to criminalize the use of marijuana except for medical purposes.

The law did not include such penal provisions since concerns were raised when the law came into effect that farmers growing the cannabis plant could be punished for symptoms resulting from the unintentional inhalation of marijuana substances. .

But no marijuana substances were detected in the urine tests of these farmers, according to a survey conducted by the ministry in 2019.

Violators would face severe penalties if the new provision were introduced.

But some experts are calling for more treatment for marijuana addicts to prevent recidivism, instead of imposing criminal penalties, citing data that shows many marijuana users in Japan are young people.

Maria J. Book