South Korea sure has surprised everyone with a major development this week: medical cannabis has been legalized in the country! As such, it is the first nation in East Asia to do so, and the second in Asia.
South Korea’s National Assembly approved the proposed amendments to the Control of Narcotics Act which would allow non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical cannabis.
It is the Control of Narcotics Act that strictly prohibits the sale and purchase of marijuana.
What patients can do to access medical pot
Under the new legislation, patients will have to submit applications to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, which is an organization that provides access to rare medications. The center will give their stamp of approval on a case-by-case basis and a prescription will be required.
What led to legalization?
The recent vote follows a decision made by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in July to allow the use of cannabis-derived drugs Epidiolex, Cesamet, Marinol, and Sativex in the treatment of epilepsy, cancer, and HIV/AIDS symptoms.
CannabizDaily reported in February that Rep. Shin Chang-hyun had introduced a bill pushing for cannabis reform in the country. The South Korean lawmaker proposed to add cannabis to the current law that permits patients to legally bypass the restrictions against psychotic substances or drugs.
Pursuant to his proposed bill, patients in the country can use medical cannabis so long as they have obtained authorization from the proper authorities. Also under the bill, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety will be responsible for approving the list of medical conditions qualified to be treated with medical cannabis.
Shin had pointed out that South Korea’s current narcotics laws have adverse effects as they lead to the arrest of people who buy hemp oil to treat or manage their illnesses.
It is worth noting that current laws allow the consumption of addictive drugs like cocaine, morphine, and opium in certain medical circumstances while still banning marijuana. However, the law already allows scientists and researchers to import cannabis provided that they get authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
The National Assembly’s approval of the proposed medical cannabis law is considered a major step in the relatively conservative Asian country. Like other nations in the region, South Korea still has some of the most stringent regulations regarding recreational pot.
For one, South Koreans who are caught consuming the drug risk prosecution even if they are visiting countries where recreational cannabis is already legal, like Canada.