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Japan opens doors for patients, closes cannabis loopholes

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Japan is set to allow cannabinoids in medical products following approval from the House of Councillors, also known as parliament. This comes less than a month after clearing the House of Representatives, the Japan Times reports. Now that the law is announced, it should be one year until it goes into effect.

The law would effectively allow doctors to prescribe Epidiolex, a CBD anti-seizure medication approved in the U.S. and Europe. Japan started Phase III of a clinical trial for the drug in December 2022.

Despite a win for medical patients, the laws tighten consumption rules in other areas. Formerly, there was a loophole in the 1948 Cannabis Control Law that didn’t ban the consumption of cannabis, just the possession, trade, and cultivation.

This was meant to protect hemp farmers who unknowingly absorbed psychoactive cannabinoids while growing hemp. However, public opinion led lawmakers to close the gap, explicitly banning cannabis consumption, due to a perceived rise in interest from young people.

As the new law is enacted, two cultivation licenses will be established. One will grant farmers the right to grow cannabis for medical products, and the other will be reserved for hemp farmers growing plants with little to no THC.

Despite a rigid anti-cannabis stance, Japanese farmers have been cultivating hemp for

decades. Tochigi Prefecture is the hub for industrial hemp agriculture in the country, where a

low-THC strain called Tochigi Shiro was bred in 1982.

The plants are not for getting high, but farmers still face stigma from their communities, according to a story from the Japan News. Perhaps passing this new bill and building a licensing structure in the blossoming space will bolster community support for the tradesmen.

The law is a forward step for a country that has been known to sentence people to up to seven years in prison for possessing small quantities of cannabis. First looks at the bill may be disheartening for adult-use consumers hoping for a legalized Land of the Rising Sun, but it’s not all bad.

Patients seeking cannabis medicine will now have access to more cannabis products in the

country, benefitting many. It has also initiated the design of a structure that could evolve into a

more robust industry in the future.


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