Southeast Asia’s notoriously strict anti-cannabis laws could be set to relax dramatically as South Korea becomes the first country in the region to legalise cannabis for medicinal use.


This surprising move towards legalisation is intended to expand treatment options for patients suffering from rare diseases such as epilepsy.


South Korea’s national assembly approved amending the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs last Friday to allow non-hallucinogenic doses of medical cannabis.


The use of the plant/plant-derived substances will be under strict control and all patients will need to have a doctor’s prescription and must apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Centre, a government body facilitating patient access to rare medicines.


This nod to legalisation is especially extraordinary seeing as South Korea’s exceptionally tough laws on cannabis consumption has seen citizens prosecuted for using cannabis in other countries such as Canada, where it is legalised for recreational use.


South Korea is not about to legalise the plant for recreational use anytime soon. It will remain illegal to smoke or sell cannabis under the countries anti-drug laws and those found guilty could face up to five years in prison.


Other South East Asian countries in talks to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes are Malaysia and Thailand.