There is suddenly hope for patients and the parents of children suffering from medical conditions that could be treated with medical cannabis in South Korea. Despite decades of prohibition, archaic opinions and any talk of drug use in South Korea being extremely taboo, a new bill seeks to legalize cannabis for medicinal applications.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we see this as a rather huge development for a typically conservative country and will be watching closely as the bill progresses.
What the Bill Would Entail for South Korea
What we know so far is that Representative Shin Chang-hyun, member of the ruling Democratic Party, introduced a bill in February to legalize medical cannabis in South Korea. Doing so would require making changes to the country’s long-standing and broad-reaching Act on the Control of Narcotics.
Listed under the reason for the bill’s proposal, the following statement was included by Shin, “The current law strictly prohibits the sale of cannabis. Recently, there was a case in which the mother bought a cannabis oil on the overseas fasting line for the treatment of a son with a brain tumor (4 years old) and was arrested and sentenced in court.” (translated from source)
Cases like this have popped up more frequently, and The Korea Times reported that the Korea Customs Service stopped 80 people from trying to smuggle in cannabis products for medical use in 2016. During the previous year, there were only six instances.
This certainly indicates that people are seeing the validity of cannabis as a treatment option. And with patients and parents of patients willing to accept risks such as prison sentences of up to 5 years or fines of 50 million won, or $48,000, it’s certainly beyond time for the country’s lawmakers to allow change.
Of course, it will be one step at a time.
Likely because of the controversial nature of the bill, it only recommends moving medical cannabis to a section of the current law that provides exceptions for certain drugs and opiates that can be used for medicinal purposes. Beyond that, there would be no changes such as developing and implementing a more robust system as seen with other similar legislation here in the U.S. and globally.
In fact, patients seeking medical cannabis in South Korea would first need to have it prescribed by their doctor. Requests would then need to be approved on an individual basis by the commissioner of the Korea Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The bill also does not allow domestic cultivation which means the South Korean market would be reliant on imports from Canada and Australia, as well as rather recent entries to the medicinal cannabis export market, Colombia and even Lesotho, Africa. While Shin’s bill seems simple, there will certainly be issues to address in order to best serve the needs of patients.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we hope that South Korea will continue to shed the stigma and embrace the benefits of cannabis by watching and learning how the world is making it a viable commodity. Until then, we will watch and wait as the bill heads to lawmakers of the Legislative Welfare Committee for further debate. According to news reports from South Korea, this will be the real test and the outcome should be announced later in April. Keep an eye on the news!
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