Oh snap. Another historic landmark on our way to a weed-friendly world is upon us. The Republic of Korea revised its drug policy on November 23, legalizing forms of medical cannabis. It is the first country in East Asia to make such a move, as reported by Leafly.
The announcement represents a major shift for the South Korean government. As recently as last month, the government warned its citizens that they could be jailed for consuming cannabis while in weed-legal countries, tweeting that “even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it.”
So it comes as some surprise that only weeks later the country has legalized medical cannabis. What might not be so surprising, however, is that the scope of the new medical marijuana program will be pretty limited.
No THC, no flower, and no cultivation within the country itself
The new policy will only allow for the importation of cannabidiol (CBD) oil. CBD has many powerful medical benefits and, crucially, it doesn’t get you high.
In order to receive CBD oil, a medical marijuana patient must obtain a doctor’s recommendation letter and take it to the government’s Korea Orphan Drug Center, which then has to approve the treatment.
A doctor’s recommendation can be issued for treatment of a variety of illnesses including epilepsy, autism, dementia, brain cancer, and drug and alcohol addiction.
“It is known that cannabis oil is a drug that has been proven to be effective against other drugs, such as narcotics,” said Shin Chang-Hyun, a Democratic Party representative who introduced the medical marijuana amendment.
“The approval of imports of cannabis-composition medical products for self-treatment will strengthen the safety net for social minorities such as those with rare and incurable patients who cannot see treatment benefits if they don’t get treated in a certain time frame.”
Interestingly, recreational cannabis use appears to be pretty rare in South Korea. Leafly writes that marijuana only make up roughly 1% of all drug possession charges in the country. North Korea is actually said to be much more 420-friendly, with reports claiming that it is not considered a drug and is both cultivated and consumed openly.
Photo via Flickr user Anton Strogonoff