South Korea Becomes the First East Asian Country to Legalize Medical Marijuana

South Korea recently became the first country in East Asia, and only the second Asian country after Sri Lanka, to legalize medical marijuana.

Members of South Korea’s National Assembly voted to amend the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs on Friday to allow non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical marijuana, the Financial Times reports.

Under the amendments, patients are now required to apply with the Korea Orphan Drug Center to be granted access to rare medicines. Requests, which require a valid prescription, will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Back in July, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced its intention to allow the use of cannabis-based drugs Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet and Sativex for epilepsy, symptoms of HIV/AIDS and cancer-related treatments.

While the recent vote still comes with many restrictions, it is still considered a major development for the cannabis industry in the country which imposes some of the toughest rules against recreational cannabis.

In the past, South Koreans were at risk of prosecution for cannabis consumption even if they do it while visiting countries where marijuana use is legal.


Two other Asian countries expressed interest in pursuing medical marijuana legalization in recent months.

In Thailand, proposed amendments intended to legalize medical marijuana (and a locally known plant, kratom) have been submitted by the Thai National Legislative Assembly for review earlier this month.

Malaysia is also reportedly pursuing legalization of cannabis for medical use since September.

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