Japan's cannabis laws are about to undergo a major overhaul to promote the legalization of medical cannabis. The Japanese Cabinet approved amendments to the Cannabis Control Act and other laws on October 24, 2023. Medical products containing cannabis extracts will be allowed for domestic use if their safety and efficacy are confirmed. To prevent drug abuse, cannabis is also listed as an object of the Narcotic Control Act, and can be subject to the use crime, like other controlled drugs. The government plans to implement the amendments within one year of their publication.
1. Meet the medical needs
To achieve international consistency and meet medical needs, the import, manufacture, and use of drugs made from cannabis that have been approved under the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Act should be allowed. (The Cannabis Control Act prohibits the use, delivery, and acceptance of use of drugs made from cannabis, so the relevant provisions of Article 4, etc., were revised.)
Explanation: Allowing the import and manufacture of compliant medical cannabis-derived drugs.
2. Combat drug abuse
Considering that the use crime is set up with the possession crime in other drug control regulations, for cannabis, except for the use of drugs, the use of drugs (so-called "use crime") should be prohibited. At this time, drug abuse rehabilitation support should be promoted, and measures to prevent re-abuse and social reintegration support, including drug addiction treatment, should be improved.
Instead of the previous restrictions on the parts of cannabis plants, restrictions should be introduced that focus on the components. (Controlled under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Control Act.)
- Main components in cannabis:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): A component that should be restricted as a narcotic drug that shows hallucinogenic effects.
- Cannabidiol (CBD): A component that does not have narcotic properties and can be used as a pharmaceutical raw material, food, and dietary supplement (not regulated overseas either).
Explanation: Decriminalization of cannabis for medical use; no longer restricting the application of cannabis plant parts, instead using components as the restriction standard (and clarifying that the restricted component is THC, CBD is not a narcotic drug, and is fully legalized for use in medicine, food, etc.).
3. Promote the appropriate use of cannabis
To ensure the safety and proper circulation of cannabis derivatives such as cannabidiol (CBD), the residual limit of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) should be set and clarified. At this time, it should be based on the principle that the business operator conducting manufacturing and sales guarantees the suitability of the limit, and at the same time, administrative supervision and guidance, including purchase surveys, should be taken.
Explanation: Clarifying the allowable THC content in CBD-derived products, with limited requirements for production and sales companies, and consumption subject to administrative supervision.
4. Appropriate cultivation and management
In addition to the purpose of harvesting fibers or seeds as stipulated in the existing law, the purpose of cultivation should be expanded to include production for new industrial uses (including CBD products) and pharmaceutical raw material uses under the appropriate management of the licensing system.
For the cultivation of cannabis for existing uses and new industrial uses (excluding medical raw material uses), the upper limit value of THC content in cannabis should be set based on overseas cases such as 0.2%, and the suitability with the upper limit value should be ensured through seed management.
The cultivation of industrial use cannabis (low THC cannabis) below the THC upper limit should adopt a reasonable cultivation management system and licensing system that is easier to cultivate than the current one.
The license standard, except for the reason for disqualification, is also unified. As a cultivation management standard, it should be clarified. The cultivation of industrial use cannabis should be discussed with the appropriate licensing authority (including prefectures), and the cultivation for pharmaceutical raw material use should be based on national management.
- Introducing a cultivation permit system for the purpose of industrial and medical (including CBD) applications;
- Controlling the pass-through varieties, limiting the THC content of industrial-use cannabis to not more than 0.2%, and medical use is not subject to this restriction;
- Loosening the management system and permit system for the cultivation of cannabis with a THC content of not more than 0.2%;
- Industrial hemp cultivation will have a clear and unified license, and medical hemp cultivation will be managed by a state agency.
In conclusion, Japan's cannabis law reform will bring medical convenience and security to local people who urgently need medical cannabis to treat diseases, and also boost Japan's industrial hemp industry.