History of CBD and Cannabis In: South Korea
The past fifteen years or so have seen absolutely remarkable changes to the legal status of cannabis and CBD in countries across the world. These changes have been driven by rapidly shifting popular opinion: Large swaths of people no longer seem to believe that cannabis consumption is a crime worthy of massive jail time or overwhelming police resources.
However, those changes have not happened in totality: Marijuana consumption is still illegal in the vast majority of the world. Instead, many countries have changed their laws by lessening sentences or legalizing some form of medical marijuana. Such is the case in South Korea: Marijuana use is still heavily criminalized with comparatively severe forms of punishment, but recent changes to the law allowed for the prescription of certain marijuana-based medications.
History of Cannabis in South Korea
The first drug prohibitions in the country came with the 1957 with the enactment of the Narcotics Act, although that act only outlaws Indian-grown marijuana, and Korean marijuana was still allowed to be sold and purchased in the country. That was changed with the adoption of the Cannabis Control Act of 1976, which banned all forms of marijuana.
Despite this, numerous websites have noted that cannabis remains relatively easy to obtain in the country. Furthermore, many K-Pop stars and celebrities have been arrested and sentenced for use of marijuana, resulting in major damage to their careers. As such, it can safely be assumed that a major stigma is associated with marijuana use.
Current Legal Status of Cannabis in South Korea
In March 2019, the first changes to the country’s marijuana laws took effect. These changes came as a result of a November 2018 action by the country’s, which approved a limited medical marijuana law. This allowed for certain marijuana-based medications to be imported on a case by case basis. It is an extremely limited list: Only Sativex, Epidiolex, Cesamet and Marinol may be prescribed, and those drugs must be produced in Australia, France, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom or the United States. Furthermore, the process requires that an individual have a “rare or incurable disease,” submit an application to the South Korean Ministry of Food & Drug Safety, along with their diagnosis and medical records.
However, limited though this process may be, it’s an important step forward and makes South Korea one of the first East Asian states to legalize some form of medical marijuana.
All other forms of marijuana use – including home growing and recreational use – remain illegal. The penalty for violating this law is severe: Five years in prison or a fine of $44,000. Even more interestingly, South Korean authorities have said that they will arrest individuals if they find evidence that they smoked marijuana in other countries, even if the act is legal in those countries, like Canada.
CBD use is also illegal in the country.