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Post: Marijuana for medical use to be legal, but not recreational use

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Marijuana for medical use to be legal, but not recreational use
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The health ministry’s expert panel on cannabis control meets in Tokyo on Sept. 29. (Kai Ichino) The health ministry is moving to legalize marijuana for medical use in the treatment of epilepsy in Japan while adding a new legal provision to criminalize its usage for recreational purposes.

Its expert panel met Sept. 29 to discuss revisions to the Cannabis Control Law, which was enacted in 1948. Ministry officials expect an amendment bill will be submitted to the ordinary Diet session next year.

The Cannabis Control Law prohibits the cultivation and possession of cannabis as well as the manufacturing of medicines made from it.

Panel members cited, among other things, a recent spike in cases of cannabis possession, notably among young people, and pushed for the use of cannabis to be criminalized as well.

Some panel members called for more extensive treatment to be made available for those addicted to marijuana rather than imposing penalties and making social rehabilitation more difficult for them.

The ministry also plans to shift its focus of attention on ingredients of the cannabis plant and decontrol a component that can be used in medicines.

The current legal control on cannabis is operated on a part-by-part basis and covers, among other things, the spikes, leaves, ungrown stalks and roots of the plant. Some of the parts under control, however, contain a low-toxicity ingredient that can be used for medicinal and other purposes.

For this reason, the ministry plans to legalize the use of a marijuana-derived epilepsy drug as long as it is proven to be effective and safe and gains approval as a pharmaceutical.

The drug is used in all Group of Seven countries, except Japan, where a clinical trial for the drug is now under way.

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