In a landmark revision of its stringent drug laws, Japan's parliament has given the green light to legalize cannabis-based medicines. A significant amendment, the newly enacted bill now permits the use of medical products containing cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Acknowledged globally for its therapeutic benefits, CBD is used to treat a range of conditions, including severe epilepsy.
Cracking Down on Cannabis
While the amendment is seen as a step forward in the medical field, it also represents a significant tightening of Japan's cannabis regulations. The act of consuming marijuana, once a loophole in the law, has now been criminalized. Previously, while the possession of marijuana carried a potential five-year jail sentence, inhaling it was not illegal – a condition devised to protect farmers from accidental inhalation while cultivating hemp. Under the new laws, anyone caught using or possessing marijuana faces a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
The Fight Against Marijuana Abuse
The stricter laws come in the wake of a rise in cannabis-related arrests, particularly among the youth. Health ministry statistics indicate a record 5,783 arrests in 2021. With these tougher regulations, the government aims to stem the increasing trend of marijuana abuse. Despite the more stringent legal landscape, the CBD market in Japan has seen considerable growth, reaching an estimated industry value of $59 million in 2019.
Targeting THC, Not CBD
The new regulations specifically target THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, leaving CBD products unaffected. Japan's stringent stance on cannabis, encapsulated in the mantra 'dame zettai' (absolutely not), has led to a low reported usage rate. Only 1.4 percent of the population admits to trying marijuana, significantly lower than rates in countries like France and the United States.