Skip to main content

Japanese Health Ministry Bans Six Synthetic Cannabinoids

cannabis gummies

Japan’s Health Ministry moved to pass a ban on certain synthetic cannabinoids this week, citing reported illnesses by consumers who stated they consumed gummy products infused with synthetic cannabinoids.

All of the cannabinoids in question, which will be banned starting January 6, 2024, have a similar structure as hexahydrocannabihexol (HHCH). Japan’s Health Ministry implemented a ban on HHCH and any products infused with it earlier this month.

Back in November, five individuals reportedly became ill after “consuming gummies distributed by a man at a festival in western Tokyo.” Those reported illnesses were cited as the reason for banning HHCH earlier this month.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was already banned in Japan, however, lawmakers recently passed a measure to close a perceived loophole in the law. THC consumption was not expressly prohibited in Japan until earlier this month. People in Japan caught having consumed cannabis now face up to seven years in prison.

Products containing synthetic cannabinoids are popular with consumers in jurisdictions that prohibit THC, serving as an alternative to non-synthetic cannabis products. Multiple outlets in Japan were reportedly selling synthetic cannabis products such as gummies and cookies before the passage of the ban.

Synthetic cannabis products are almost always unregulated, and thus, not always safe for human consumption. Growing demand for synthetic cannabis products is a byproduct of cannabis prohibition, as demonstrated by the fact that synthetic cannabis products are not nearly as popular, nor as widely available, in jurisdictions where adult-use cannabis commerce is permitted compared to where it is prohibited.

Regulated THC products are demonstrably safer than unregulated synthetic cannabinoid products, which is why governments around the world would be wise to modernize their cannabis policies to permit adult-use cannabis commerce to boost public health outcomes.

In addition to banning HHCH earlier this month, lawmakers in Japan lifted a ban on cannabis-derived medications to permit the importation of such medical cannabis products as Epidiolex. Epidiolex is often prescribed for patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy.