30 June 2019
Asian countries decriminalize cannabis for medical purposes
cannabis

Cannabis has hit the headlines again over the last few months and continues to cause controversy. For some it is a harmless recreational drug, for others it is a concern not only because of its effect on the mind and its links with addiction, but because it can lead casual users to experimenting with more dangerous substances. Whichever view you may have, there is no getting away from the scientific facts that cannabis has medicinal qualities. After many years of cannabis being locked away in the dark shadows of the criminal world, western countries such as the USA, Canada, Uruguay and the UK have lifted specific restrictions to allow its use to aid health and well -being in medicine. Asian countries have been quick to follow their lead.

Cannabis as a medication

Using cannabis more widely in medication is nothing new, but in the last century its use has been prevented professionally in the modern world due to the heavy legal restrictions around recreational use. Testing as to how the plant and its derivatives can be used safely and effectively continue but already it has proven health benefits in many areas. This is not the same as smoking the leaves or using the whole of the plant – scientists have experimented with extracting elements from it.

For many illnesses it can be an effective antidote for pain and a relief from stress. This makes it especially useful for problems such as epilepsy, sleep problems, and anxiety. It has also been found to have a benefit with multiple sclerosis, autism and relief from the discomfort associated with chemotherapy.  Contemporary research studies are suggesting that it may also have a place in regulating the digestive system and modulating the immune system as well as promoting neuroplasticity.

Asian countries making the move

Medical research has led to the control of some major diseases. Of that we can be forever thankful. However sometimes, even though people are living longer, they are facing a life of “pain”. The benefits of cannabis for pain relief is not disputed and in consequence countries across the globe are considering relaxing regulations. Following Uruguay and Canada, Asian countries are considering their approach to the drug.

cannabis

Interestingly it is in Asia that there are the most deterrents and high penalties for cannabis possession and distribution. In Malaysia, trafficking marijuana can lead to a death sentence. Public opinion erupted in the country when a man who sold medicinal cannabis in 2018 was given a death sentence. In September of the same year, the Malaysian government discussed the medicinal benefits which led  in October to a member of parliament revealing she was drafting a bill to decriminalize medicinal marijuana.

Last year, Sri Lanka revealed that they were cultivating cannabis for medicinal export. Conversely, in South Korea, where laws against drugs are particularly draconian, leaders have been considering amending laws so products infused with CBD (a derivative of the cannabis plant) can be imported. Cannabis is still illegal in China and Japan, though studies into the plants medicinal benefits have officially been sanctioned.

Thailand moves to decriminalize medicinal use

In Thailand, legal medical use for cannabis has been approved by the government. This is quite a substantial move as the country has become infamous for its harsh penalties on drug users and traffickers. It is true cannabis use plays a large part in Thai history. It has been used in cookery, clothing and for healing. But in 1934 laws were introduced to legislate it’s use. In 1979, the Narcotics Act introduced severe laws which prevented cannabis use in all its forms. The new changes reflect how the Thai government accept cannabis can play a part in health and wellness – legislation around recreational use remain the same.

The new laws came into place at the end of 2018. Since then over 50,000 patients have registered for medical help with the drug. To ensure that it is used appropriately possession of cannabis is only allowed with a prescription or a doctor’s certificate.

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