In that Asia has some of the strictest laws and harshest penalties for cannabis use, South Korea’s announcement is a major milestone for the global cannabis movement.
South Korea’s National Assembly voted to approve the Management of Narcotic Drugs “to pave the way for non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical cannabis prescriptions,” reported Marijuana Business Daily on Nov. 26, 2018.
Patients will be required to get a medical marijuana prescription from a medical practitioner then apply to a government agency, called the Korea Orphan Drug Center, a government body that facilitates patient access to rare medicines, which will now include medicinal cannabis.
Medical marijuana, according to Marijuana Business Daily’s reading of a Korean government document, will be tightly restricted and approval to use MMJ will be granted on a case-by-case basis and potency will be capped at “non-hallucinogenic” levels.
“South Korea legalizing medical cannabis, even if it will be tightly controlled with limited product selection, represents a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry,” said Vijay Sappani, CEO of Toronto-based Ela Capital, a venture capital firm exploring emerging markets in the cannabis space.
“The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated. Now it’s a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if.”
Late last year, Benziga reported that the Thai National Legislative Assembly submitted some proposed amendments that would legalize medical marijuana and a locally known plant, kratom.
In September 2018, Malaysia looked as though it would become the first Asian country legalize medical cannabis, following public outrage over a death penalty handed to a 29-year-old man who was processing and giving free medical marijuana to people in need.
Malaysia is one of at least 33 countries that retains the death penalty for drug offences.