South Korea recently became the first East Asian nation to approve the medicinal use of marijuana. Recently, the National Assembly of South Korea voted to pass legislation to the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs which permits prescriptions for “non-hallucinogenic” doses of medicinal marijuana. Last Month, the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety reported that updates to the law would give access to more treatment options for patients suffering from severe diseases.
According to the CEO of cannabis industry venture capital firm Ela Capital in Toronto, Vijay Sappani the decision of South Korea to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis is historic.
Sappani stated that the significance of South Korea is the only country in East Asia to authorize the medicinal use of cannabis at a federal level should not be under looked. He added that it now depends on when other Asian countries will follow the example of South Korea.
The utilization of medical cannabis by South Koreans will be highly limited and regulated. Before a patient can successfully buy any form of cannabis medicine, the patient will be required to send an application to the Korea Orphan Drug Center; a government agency focused on helping patients to receive essential medications. Approval will be granted on an individual basis, and before patients gain support, they will also be required to obtain a prescription from a healthcare expert.
According to Sappani, South Korea’s legalization of medical marijuana in has global impacts on the rapidly growing cannabis industry.
Sappani also said that South Korea is making medical cannabis legal, although it will strictly be regulated with limited availability of products, thus representing a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry.
In July, the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety stated that it would allow the use of cannabinoid-based medications such as Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet, and Sativex for the treatment of severe medical conditions like cancer, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS. All four cannabis-infused pharmaceutical pills have gained approval for use in several other countries.
South Korea’s legalization of cannabis only applies to medical marijuana. The recreational consumption of marijuana is still illegal for South Koreans. Moreover, when South Koreans are not permitted to consume recreational marijuana when traveling to other foreign countries which have legalized the use of recreational marijuana such as Canada. When recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada on October 17th, the government of South Korean alerted its citizens residing in Canada that the country’s ban on recreational marijuana also applies in other parts of the world. During the process of cannabis legalization in South Korea, the South Korean embassy in Canada tweeted a stated for the country’s nationals residing in Canada to be careful not to commit an illegal act and get punished.
According to, the head of the Narcotics Crime Investigation Division at the Gyeonggi Nambu provincial police agency, Yoon Se-jin, citizens can be detained for consuming cannabis anywhere they travel.
According to Korean law, Weed smokers will face punishment even if they smoke marijuana in countries where smoking marijuana is legal.