Japan is debating legalizing cannabis medicines, which would be a historic change in the country’s zero-tolerance laws.
The debate is centered around whether the benefits of cannabis medicines outweigh the potential risks, and if the legalization of these medications would lead to an increase in cannabis use overall. So far, there is no clear consensus on what direction Japan will take on this issue.
A health ministry panel in Japan has suggested that the nation should allow the use of cannabis-based medicines, while also strengthening laws on cannabis use.
The health ministry panel recommended that cannabis-based medications should be allowed for certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy and chronic pain. However, they also recommended that the use of cannabis for other medical conditions should be studied further.
The National Police Agency report states that Japan saw a record 5,482 people involved in cannabis-related criminal cases in 2021. This is an increase of 448 from the previous year, and 70% of offenders are in their 20s or younger. Overall, 5.6 per 100,000 people were involved in cannabis-related offenses in 2021, which is nearly double the 3.0 rate in 2017.
In a survey of 829 drug offenders by the National Police Agency, more than 70% said they did not believe cannabis is harmful. The health ministry report noted that just 1.4% of people in Japan had ever consumed cannabis, compared to 20-40% in Western countries.
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