On 25 November, the South Korean National Assembly approved using cannabis for medical purposes through an amendment to national Management of Narcotic Drugs Act (MNDA), as some ‘treatment effects' of using marijuana have been proven.
The meeting to amend the MNDA was initially stated to take place on 15 November, but was postponed because of the absence of the opposition, according to the Korean news website Kyeonggi.
In order to use cannabis for treatment, South Korean citizens will be required firstly to get a medical prescription, then approval from the Korean Orphan Drug Center, which would process applications on a case-by-case basis, according to the MB Daily.
The South Korean decision was characterized as ‘a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry' by Vijay Sappani, CEO of Ela Capital, based in Toronto, Canada, which specializes in examining emerging medical cannabis markets.
‘The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated. Now it's a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if', he said to Marijuana Business Daily.
In October, South Korean authorities warned that those who ‘smoke, purchase, possess or deliver' cannabis abroad would be ‘punished' when they return home, as these acts are still ‘criminal'.
‘Even in a place where marijuana is legalized, if our citizens smoke, purchase, possess or deliver marijuana, it's a criminal act, so they will be punished', the South Korean Embassy to Canada wrote on its Twitter page, according to BNN Bloomberg.
In September, Malaysia reportedly was seeking to become the first country in Asia to legalize medical cannabis. Negotiations, however, have so far led nowhere, as Malaysia's Ministry of Health has been sceptical about the medical value of cannabis, according to Bloomberg.
Malaysian anti-drug legislation stipulates capital punishment for drug-related offences, as does legislation in most Asian countries.