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Reforming Japanese Cannabis Law – Finally?

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When it comes to medical cannabis, Japan is far behind the curve.

way back. There is officially no legal access to medicinal cannabis in Japan. But some people find relief with cannabis derivatives Convention on Biological Diversity Products, a market that has taken hold and is growing rapidly due to a loophole in the law.

Cannabis in Japan

Hemp actually has a long history in Japan, going back to prehistoric times. Hemp fibers and seeds have been discovered in the remains of human habitats from the Jomon period (10,000 .). B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E.).

Throughout history, hemp has been a widely cultivated crop and has played an important role in Japanese daily life. People would wear clothes made of hemp, use hemp ropes in a variety of ways, make hemp paper, eat the seeds, and make oils. Hemp fields were plentiful throughout the country.

Besides its practical applications, hemp was also revered as a sacred plant in our indigenous Shinto religion and was (and still is) used in various ceremonies.

Cannabis was also seen as a medicine. It is listed in the Pharmacopoeia and prescribed to treat asthma, relieve pain and promote sleep, among other uses. Hemp and cigarette tinctures were widely available in pharmacies and advertised in newspapers.

Advertisement for cannabis cigarettes in a national newspaper, 1895.

imposed ignorance

That all changed when Japan lost World War II, and the winner – the United States – forced the country to ban cannabis entirely, as part of an anti-drug law. Japanese hemp growers – there were more than 37,000 at the time – protested. So the Japanese government negotiated with the US occupation army and was able to separate cannabis from the rest of the drugs. They were also able to get a legal exemption where mature cannabis stalks and seeds are allowed under the Cannabis Control Act. Enacted in 1948, this editorial measure enforced Japan’s cannabis policy without revision or modification for nearly 75 years.

think about it. In 1948, no one in the world knew that THC that made you mad. Nobody knows that we have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies. No one has known the scientific basis for how cannabis helps people with a wide range of ailments, which we largely understand today.

Science has progressed, but we haven’t. The Japanese cannabis law was simply imposed on us. And we Japanese, famous for our obedient nature and respect for authority, for good or evil, obey.

The slow pace of change

But seven decades later, even our reflexive obedience is nearing its limits. Every day news about cannabis law reform and new scientific discoveries “elsewhere in the world” comes online. The globe is now smaller, and the news travels faster.

In 2013, it is derived from hemp Convention on Biological Diversity Products began to flow into Japan. Because of the loophole in the anti-cannabis law, Convention on Biological Diversity Products are legal to import and use as long as the manufacturer declares that they have been produced from mature cannabis stalks, and if they contain no detectable THC. Despite this ridiculous requirement, Convention on Biological Diversity The market has shown a steady expansion, particularly after 2019, and is gaining momentum every year, attracting a whole host of new consumers, including children.

Green Zone Japan, an organization founded in 2017 by a Japanese MD I and I helped a 6-month-old with Ohthara’s syndrome (childhood early-onset epilepsy encephalopathy) get medicated doses (according to the famous study led New york universityOren Devinsky) from Convention on Biological Diversity The product is currently on the Japanese market. Boy’s spells stopped!

This generated great interest – and hope – among Japanese families with children with epilepsy and their doctors, leading to a series of events that culminated in an announcement by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in March 2019 (MHLW), which is the equivalent in Japan Food and Drug AdministrationIt will allow clinical trials of a cannabis-derived drug.

picture

A 6-month-old Japanese boy with epilepsy helped him Convention on Biological Diversity.

The drug scheduled for clinical trials is Epidiolex, Pharmaceuticals Convention on Biological Diversity produced by GW pharma in United kingdom It is approved as a treatment for severe childhood epilepsy in many countries, including the United States.

GW The Japanese entity of Pharma, which was formed for this purpose, submitted an official application for a study on Epidiolex, and it was approved by the Ministry of Health. But the clinical trial has been slow to take off.

Yes, it’s only Epidiolex, a Convention on Biological Diversity Isolation, and yes, it is only for intractable epilepsy. However, the government’s recognition of the potential therapeutic benefits of a cannabis derivative is a major first step toward legalizing medical cannabis in Japan.

An uncertain future for medical cannabis

So where do we go from here?

In January 2021, the Japanese Ministry of Health announced that it plans to review the cannabis control law for possible reform. This was to be expected, because if the clinical trial of Epidiolex is successful, the current law, which prohibits the use of cannabis for any purpose, including medicinal purposes, must be changed. A team of 12 “experts” was formed. After meeting eight times, he made a recommendation that identified four areas for reform. Medical cannabis licensing is one of them. The reform is expected to be addressed during the regular Diet (Parliament) session in 2023.

This sounds encouraging. However, things are not so simple. The term “medical cannabis” can mean different things to different people, and it is not clear what exactly Japanese officials are referring to when they mention the therapeutic use of cannabis.

There is a lot of confusion about this in a country where the illicit use of cannabis for recreational and/or therapeutic purposes is very limited (arrests related to cannabis in Japan were more than 5,400 in 2021). Some people simply cannot understand that it is possible to use cannabis medicinally. When they heard that medical cannabis is legal in 37 states in the United States, many Japanese thought this meant that doctors were giving cannabis to hospital patients. There is still the impression that medical cannabis refers exclusively to Epidiolex. In fact, the majority of Japanese are not aware of the difference between state-run “medical cannabis programs” and nationwide unregulated “medical cannabis-derived programs”. Convention on Biological Diversity Market.

It is clear that education is crucial before we can embark on a fruitful discussion about how to shape the future of medical cannabis in Japan. I, for example, would like to see the use of the whole cannabis plant incorporated into the “raw drug” framework of natural herbs the Japanese are already familiar with – as well as the pharmaceutical approach. For that to happen, reform of the current law is necessary.

There is still a long way to go before we have a decent medical cannabis program in Japan, but the first step is now being taken.


Naoko Miki is a book translator and co-founder of Green Zone Japan, a non-profit organization that provides updated, evidence-based information on cannabis to Japanese medical professionals and the general public. translate project Convention on Biological Diversity Articles on her site are also in Japanese. Copyright, Project Convention on Biological Diversity. It may not be reprinted without permission.


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