Medicinal cannabis coming to South Korea

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Churning out more than 14,000 tons of hemp annually, South Korea is one of the top five producers of the fiber in the world alongside the Netherlands, Chile, France, and China. But when it comes to cannabis containing THC, the cultivation and use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes are illegal there.

But as growing numbers of countries around the globe are beginning to accept and reintroduce cannabis use into their societies as a normal practice, as it used to be in many, South Korea is joining those nations and taking the first steps into the world of legalized cannabis medicine.

The East Asian country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said Wednesday that it would be amending the nation’s drug laws to allow the importation of select cannabis extract products that are approved for use overseas.

A growing domestic demand and advocacy from civic groups have helped fuel the Ministry’s decision to work toward permitting patients with rare and intractable diseases to use medicinal cannabis.

In January, Democratic Party of Korea Representative Shin Chang-hyun introduced a bill into the National Assembly that would permit medical marijuana use if approved by the Drug Ministry.

If the bill is signed into law, internationally-approved cannabis medicines such as Epidiolex, and Sativex would be made available to licensed patients for the treatment of numerous severe medical conditions and symptoms like HIV/AIDS and post-chemo nausea.

According to the bill, qualified patients will need to obtain a physician’s report stating their need for cannabis medicine and submit it to the Drug Ministry’s Korea Orphan & Essential Drug Center who will then acquire the appropriate medication from overseas and dispense it. The Ministry says that steps will be taken to ensure the medicine is not abused.

With an ongoing demand that South Korea allow a broader range of medicinal marijuana products, the Ministry is continuing to listen to patient groups, doctors, and activists to help decide the proper course of action.

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