A draft law in Japan to legalize some pharmaceutically derived medical cannabinoid medicines, while bolstering criminal penalties for marijuana use, has been approved by the country’s House of Representatives.
The package of legislation has been sent to the Upper House for further scrutiny and could take effect by the end of 2024, according to the Japan Times newspaper.
The bill would reportedly allow medical oversight for clinically tested cannabinoid medicines such as Epidiolex, which treats epilepsy. Epidiolex is owned by Ireland-based Jazz Pharmaceuticals.
South Korea passed a similar law years ago that legalized the import of medical cannabis treatments already approved by health agencies in certain countries.
South Korea’s move was a significant milestone at the time, even if it pertained only to pharmaceutically derived medical cannabis.
Japan’s bill would not create any market opportunities for businesses selling medical cannabis whose health outcomes have not been proved clinically.
The bill would also look to close a loophole in the 1948 Cannabis Control Law, according to the Japan Times.
That law bans the possession, trade and cultivation of marijuana plants and products, but it does not contain language banning the use of cannabis.
To resolve that, the proposed bill would add marijuana to the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Law. Violating that law is punishable by up to seven years in jail.
Global sales of Epidiolex increased to $604.8 million in the first nine months of this year, up from $529 million last year.
That makes Epidiolex the best-selling, clinically proven medical cannabis treatment in the world.