In a move that’s taken some people by surprise — mainly cannabis advocates who’ve been waiting for action to be taken in the East Asian country — South Korea has officially legalized medical marijuana for a handful of conditions, including epilepsy. Though a seemingly liberal move for the extremely strict on cannabis country, recreational use is yet a long way off and harsh penalties remain in place for those caught with the herb without a prescription.
The Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs was changed recently to allow for “non-hallucinogenic” doses of cannabis to be allowed for very sick patients. After obtaining a doctor’s recommendation and then applying to the Korea Orphan Drug Centre for the license itself, medical hopefuls will be given their permission to consume — or not — by South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
The amendment to the Act was brought up back in 2015, but did not prevail. It was in March of this year at a conference that a member of the MFDS alluded to a change in mood overall in the country. Clearly, lawmakers did have a change of heart. The Cannabis Control Act of 1976 still has a grip on adult use outside the boundaries of the law and a prison sentence of up to five years holds for illegal possession.
In recent years, cannabis became a fairly popular substance among K-Pop stars. Quite a few of the more well known celebrities spent from 1 to 10 months in jail for its use, but have so far dodged the longer sentences that many civilians have faced.
Cannabis is considered a rare and specialized medicine in South Korea, hence its association with the KODC. According to the translated version of the bill’s explanation, though “hemp” has been considered to be a hallucinogenic in the past, the use of CBD oil has been proven to treat certain medical conditions.
“Non-hallucinogenic” doses and the basic use of the words hemp and CBD lead one to believe that only very low amounts of THC are likely allowed. However, as long as there is at least a small percentage of cannabis’ most famous psychoactive component, an entourage effect is reached and CBD predominant oil can certainly treat many conditions and will provide relief to South Koreans who need it most.