South Korea moves to legalize medical marijuana

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South Korea has earned the distinction of becoming the first East Asian country to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

South Korea’s National Assembly voted to amend the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs to allow non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical cannabis, Marijuana Business Daily reports.

The updated law comes months after the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it would allow cannabis-based drugs such as Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet and Sativex for conditions such as epilepsy, symptoms of HIV/AIDS, and cancer-related treatments.

Eligible patients would then be required to apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, an organization that allows access to rare medicines. Patients would then be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The decision puts South Korea ahead of Thailand, another East Asian country that initially planned to be the first to legalize medical marijuana use.

“South Korea legalizing medical cannabis, even if it will be tightly controlled with limited product selection, represents a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry,” said Vijay Sappani, CEO of Toronto-based Ela Capital, to Marijuana Business Daily. “The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated. Now it’s a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if.”

The announcement comes at a bit of a surprise, as it was made just months after the South Korean government warned traveling citizens not to use legal cannabis when visiting Canada.

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