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Japan Legalizes Cannabis-Based Medicines While Tightening Recreational Use Laws

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Ethan Sulliva
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Japan Legalizes Cannabis-Based Medicines While Tightening Recreational Use Laws

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In a landmark move, Japan has passed a bill legalizing cannabis-based medicines, marking a significant revision of its stringent drug laws. This change paves the way for lifting the ban on medical products derived from cannabis. However, the bill also tightens Japan's already strict cannabis policy, criminalizing marijuana consumption, and increasing penalties for possession and use.

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The New Cannabis Legislation in Japan

The changes in Japan's cannabis and narcotics control laws were passed in the upper house and will facilitate the lifting of the current ban on medical products derived from cannabis. This is seen as a significant win for patient groups campaigning for access to cannabis-based medicines. The revisions to the law will also establish two types of cannabis cultivation licenses, which is a departure from Japan's current Cannabis Control Act that forbids the possession, transfer, acceptance, import, and export of cannabis plants and products.

Stricter Measures Against Recreational Use

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While the bill brings relief to patients in need of cannabis-based medications, it simultaneously toughens the ban on recreational marijuana use. Those found using or possessing marijuana could face a prison sentence of up to seven years. This is part of a broader move to tighten Japan's cannabis policy, which has seen a record number of arrests related to cannabis use in recent years.

Cannabis Use and Arrests in Japan

According to the Health Ministry statistics, the number of arrests related to cannabis hit a record 5,783 in 2021, with a marked rise among teenagers and people in their twenties. This rise in cannabis-related arrests is seen as a response to the recent increase in cannabis use among young people in Japan.

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The Stigmatization of Cannabis in Japan

The tough anti-cannabis laws in Japan have led to marijuana being heavily stigmatized in the country. In fact, only 1.4 percent of people in Japan have tried marijuana, reflecting the country's widespread aversion to the drug. The recent changes in the law, while liberalizing the use of medical cannabis, are expected to further reinforce this stigma and discourage recreational use.

The Future of Cannabis Laws in Japan

With the enactment of the revised law expected within a year from promulgation, it will be interesting to see how these changes impact the perception and use of cannabis in Japan. While the legalization of cannabis-based medicines is a significant step forward for patient rights, the stricter penalties for recreational use signal a continued hard-line stance against marijuana.

In conclusion, Japan's new cannabis legislation represents a balancing act between meeting medical needs and deterring recreational use. While it opens the doors to potentially life-changing treatments for some patients, it also reinforces the country's stringent stance on recreational marijuana use.

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