Japan’s lower house of the National Diet on Tuesday passed a measure to legalize cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals, the Japan Times reports. The bill would also close a loophole in the country’s 1948 Cannabis Control Law, which bans possession, trade, and cultivation of cannabis and related products but does not contain a specific reference to use.
Under the bill, cannabis would be added as a banned substance under the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Law, and violations of the law would be punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The measure would allow clinical use for pharmaceuticals derived from cannabis, such as Epidiolex – which has been approved in the U.S. and Europe to treat severe epilepsy. A clinical trial of the drug, manufactured by GW Pharma, is currently underway in Japan, the report says.
Following the vote, Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told the Times that lawmakers “hope that, through this bill, a path will be opened for patients with intractable epilepsy to use medicines derived from the cannabis plant, helping to improve their quality of life.”
The 1948 law had avoided referencing cannabis consumption in an effort to protect the nation’s hemp farmers who could accidentally inhale cannabis while harvesting hemp crops. During a Lower House Health, Labor and Welfare session deliberating the bill last week, experts contended that criminalizing cannabis “use” would excessively penalize young offenders, and ostracize them, which would make reintegration back into society more difficult. A resolution was added to the proposal calling for the government to create a support system for such offenders so they can receive drug abuse prevention education, rehabilitation, and job assistance. (Full Story)