The changes to Japan’s cannabis and narcotics control laws passed on Wednesday in the upper house will pave the way for the lifting of a ban on medical products derived from cannabis.
Under the revised laws, which enter into force within a year from promulgation, cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical found in the plant, are designated as narcotics to be regulated.
Cannabis-based medicines, produced with the active ingredient cannabidiol, or CBD, are already used overseas to treat various conditions such as severe epilepsy.
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 criminalised, closing a loophole that officials partly blamed for a recent rise in cannabis-related arrests.
Before the revisions, inhaling marijuana had been technically legal, whereas possessing it was punishable by a jail term of up to five years.
The loophole was originally introduced to prevent farmers from being arrested for accidentally inhaling psychoactive smoke when growing hemp.
But alarmed by the recent spike in arrests over cannabis, especially among young people including…