In recent times, South Korea has been in the news for cracking down on cannabis use both locally and abroad. Their embassy in Canada even warned South Korean nationals that they will be prosecuted back home if they used medical or recreational cannabis in Canada or anywhere else. However, the East Asian country passed legislation in late November to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes. This makes it the first East Asian country to do so.
The Food and Drug Safety ministry announced that epilepsy sufferers and those struggling with other rare diseases will be able to access medical marijuana early next year (2019).
The government further announced that medical cannabis products that had gained regulatory approval in other countries would be imported for use in South Korea. However, any medical cannabis product that hadn’t gained regulatory approval in its country of origin would be illegal to use in South Korea.
Similarly, South Korean companies will also be able to cultivate, manufacture and export medical cannabis products after getting regulatory approval from the relevant agencies.
To get medical cannabis, patients will have to submit their medical records showing that they have a qualifying condition. Those records will also be accompanied by a note from a doctor stating that the patient in question has a medical condition for which medication is unavailable in the country.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety will then scrutinize those papers and decide whether the patient can start using medical cannabis or not. Approved applicants will get their medical marijuana from the Orphan and Essential Drug Center.
In other words, the government will not allow private entities to participate in the distribution of medical cannabis to the citizens.
Some cannabis legislation advocates are beginning to speculate that the passing of the medical cannabis legislation may eventually pave the way for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the country.
However, such optimism may be farfetched given that the countries in Asia are known for being very conservative and any change comes extremely slowly. Let us not forget that Asian countries are famous for being very harsh on drug use. For example, extrajudicial killings are almost tacitly sanctioned by the Philippines government in case the victims are suspected drug traffickers.
Additionally, the examples of jurisdictions that started with medical marijuana and went on to decriminalize the adult-use of cannabis are still very few.
All the same, the move to allow patients in South Korea to access medical cannabis should be applauded since the substance may help those who had lost hope of ever getting any relief from their ailments.
The Green Organic Dutchman (TSX: TGOD) (OTCQX: TGODF) and other industry players welcome South Koreans to the growing community of people who are enjoying the medicinal effects of cannabis.
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