Is Japan Heading Toward Reform too?

Liz Filmer
01 Dec 2023

Japan, one of the world’s strictest and most hostile countries regarding cannabis, recently took a significant step towards reform.

With this bill passed by the House of Representatives on November 14, 2023, businesses and investors look forward to a significant opportunity in the country. The bill will change several crucial aspects of the country’s cannabis regulations.

The revision will mean that pharmaceutical products containing ingredients removed from cannabis plants can be used domestically.

Under the current legislation, pharmaceuticals manufactured from cannabis are only permitted to be used in clinical trials and not in medical settings. This will open up the possibility of a medical cannabis market in Japan, which is something that would mark a substantial shift in attitudes towards cannabis.

Another critical change is how other cannabinoid products would be defined. CBD and other hemp-derived products can currently only be imported and sold in Japan as long as there are no detectable levels of THC. 

A healthy CBD market already exists, with a wide range of products sold nationwide. Following the amendment, it is understood that products derived from cannabis flower, leaves or resin will be allowed to be imported into Japan legally as long as they fall under the newly defined THC limit. The government is set to determine precisely what this level is shortly.

Another rudimentary change will see THC categorised as a narcotic under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Control Act, closing a loophole in the Cannabis Control Act, which does not include specific reference to the ‘use’ of cannabis but imposes strict punishments on those found to be exporting, importing, growing or possessing cannabis products.

As Japan is currently wholly reliant on CBD imports, the changes will help to open up the market for manufacturers, further increasing confidence and encouraging more investors to enter the market.

Japan’s reliance on imports could soon change as the government is also looking to install a framework to help facilitate hemp cultivation in Japan.

The government is set to increase the number of cultivation licences in the country from one to two.

The first will enable farmers to grow and harvest industrial hemp. This licence exists as Japan already has a long history of growing hemp for producing textiles and other practical products. The second will allow for the cultivation and processing of cannabis predestined for medical use. 

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Liz Filmer