South Korea becomes first East Asian nation to legalize medical marijuana

Nov 28 2018, 12:01 am

South Korea has become the first East Asian nation to legalize medical marijuana.

In a recent decision by the country’s National Assembly on November 23, the sale, import and export of cannabis for medical purposes, was passed.

In a bill titled “Amendments to the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs,” (courtesy of Google Translate), the country lays out the basics of its new regulations for controlling cannabis products, specifically CBD tablets.

Fines for breaking the new laws have been raised from 1 million (just under $1,200 CAD ) to 2 million Korean Won (roughly $2,350 CAD), in order to “to improve the effectiveness of imposition of fines.”

Those looking to import, export, manufacture, or trade cannabis for medical purposes require approval by Presidential Decree and be approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration.

The tax office is also able to revoke businesses permissions for cannabis import and production.

Patients looking to partake in medical cannabis will require a prescription for CBD tablets from their doctor and will have to go to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, a facility in Gangnam — yes like in the Psy song — that offers drugs that have so few patients, they are not profitable for larger pharmaceutical companies to produce and stock. With the proper documentation, those in need can receive their medicine.

Don’t expect to see recreational cannabis and flower for sale any time soon. A tweet from the South Korean embassy to Canada reminded its citizens that there could be serious consequences for getting high.

South Korea


“Even if you are in a cannabis legalization area,” said the embassy’s official Twitter account, “please be aware that if you are a citizen of cannabis smoking (including purchase, possession or transportation), you will be penalized for committing a criminal offence.”

The only other country in the region to have legal weed, medical or otherwise, may be the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, aka North Korea. While not confirmed, travellers to the country have said that cannabis is sold openly in markets and is popular among soldiers.

Currently, other nations in the region, like Taiwan and Malaysia, are examining the potential of legalizing medical cannabis.

Peter SmithPeter Smith

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