South Korea – said to have the most oppressive anti-cannabis laws in the world – has become the first east Asian country to legalise medical cannabis after the country’s national assembly surprisingly approved amending the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs.
The surprising move is designed to expand the treatment options for patients with epilepsy and other rare diseases. Earlier this year, South Korea opened the door to allowing patients access to cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, like Epidiolex.
The legislative language will keep tight restrictions on what the medical cannabis program will look like, and only allows for hemp or CBD products, with psychoactive/THC products remaining specifically prohibited.
Patients must receive a recommendation from a physician, and then obtain approval from a government agency called the Korea Orphan Drug Center. Approval will be granted on a case-by-case basis, according to the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
South Korea has some of the toughest rules on cannabis consumption with citizens prosecuted for using weed in other countries where recreational marijuana is legalised. Under the country’s anti-drug laws, smoking and trading marijuana remains illegal with those found guilty facing up to five years in prison.