South Korea Legalizes Medical Cannabis

November 29, 2018

South Korea has legalized medical marijuana, making it the first East Asian nation to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. The country’s National Assembly recently voted to approve amendments to the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs which will allow prescriptions for “non-hallucinogenic” doses of medical marijuana. And on November 23, the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced that the changes to the law will permit more treatment alternatives for patients with rare diseases.

Vijay Sappani, the CEO of cannabis industry venture capital firm Ela Capital in Toronto, told Marijuana Business Daily that South Korea’s action is historic.

“The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated,” Sappani said. “Now it’s a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if.”

Medical Marijuana Will Be Tightly Controlled

The use of medical marijuana in South Korea will be tightly restricted and controlled. Before receiving any cannabis medicine, patients will be required to apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, a government agency that helps patients obtain rare medications. Approval will be issued on an individual basis and patients will also be required to obtain a prescription from a healthcare professional.

Sappani said the legalization of medical marijuana in South Korea has worldwide implications for the quickly growing cannabis sector.

“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 Sappani.

In July, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced that it would permit the cannabinoid-based medications Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet, and Sativex to treat serious medical conditions including cancer, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS. All four pharmaceuticals have been approved for use in several other countries.

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