Japan to legalize cannabis-based medicines

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Japan to legalize cannabis-based medicines

29 December 2023
Medical Xpress

Japan has passed a bill to legalize cannabis-based medicines in a landmark revision of its stringent drug laws, while toughening its ban on recreational use of marijuana. This is a win for patient groups that have campaigned for access to these medicines.

However the changes amount to a tightening of Japan's already tough cannabis policy. Marijuana consumption was criminalized, closing a loophole that officials partly blame for a recent rise in cannabis-related arrests. Prior to the revisions, inhaling marijuana had been technically legal, as opposed to a jail term of up to five years for possession. Under the revised laws, those caught using or possessing marijuana can face a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Still, decades of a strident government crusade against illegal drugs, synonymous with the mantra of "dame zettai" (absolutely not), have led to marijuana being heavily stigmatized in Japan. Just 1.4 percent of people in Japan say they have tried marijuana, compared to more than 40 percent in France and around half in the United States, data compiled by the health ministry show.

Japan's tough anti-cannabis laws have ensnared international stars including Beatle Paul McCartney, who spent nine days in detention in 1980 after the drug was found in his baggage.