It’s hard to believe that we’re already two months into 2023. But, while the turn of the New Year may feel like only days ago, the world of medical cannabis and cannabinoids has given us a lot to take in in this short time. From significant legislation changes to ground-breaking research, February has seen some huge news stories emerging from these industries. So, we decided to put together this round-up of notable events from the last month – in case you missed them… 

Hong Kong introduces CBD ban

Last year, Hong Kong legislators shocked their citizens (and the rest of the world) when they announced plans to ban the sale and possession of CBD products. After months of anticipation, the measure was finally introduced on the 1st of February.  

Consumers of CBD products are not the only people affected by the rule change. A number of businesses in Hong Kong have pivoted towards CBD wellness in recent years due to the ever-increasing popularity of the cannabinoid. However, these businesses have now all been forced to close.  

Despite facing criticism from many living in the city, the Hong Kong government justified their decision by explaining that it is difficult to ensure that CBD products contain no traces of psychoactive compounds, such as THC. It also pointed out that CBD can “easily” be converted into THC. 

From the 1st of February, those found in possession of CBD up to seven years in jail and a 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($128,000) fine. Those convicted of importing, exporting or producing the substance can face up to life in prison and a 5 million Hong Kong dollar ($638,000) fine. 

Read the full story by National Public Radio: Hong Kong bans CBD, a move that forces businesses to shut down or revamp 

Japan announces plans to legalise medical cannabis 

At the beginning of February, the news also broke that the Japanese government was planning to make changes to its approach to cannabis. This includes introducing access to medical cannabis use for patients with incurable conditions. On the other hand, however, it would also crack down on recreational cannabis users. 

Currently, the possession, sale, and cultivation of cannabis is illegal in Japan – regardless of whether it is intended for recreational or medicinal use. The revision of the Cannabis Control Act would enable some patients, including those with treatment-resistant epilepsy, to use cannabis-based medicines for their condition.  

When it comes to recreational cannabis, however, things are headed in the opposite direction. Under the current legislation, the consumption of cannabis is not punishable by law. Japan has a historic relationship with hemp as the crop has been used for food, clothing and as a part of traditional Shinto rituals for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. 

Under the new proposal, however, recreational cannabis consumers would face stricter criminal punishment. Lawmakers say that the measure is to discourage the growing use of the drug among young people. 

The CBD and medical cannabis sector has slowly been expanding in Japan in recent years, as the country’s only cannabis conference demonstrated last year. Shweed’s President and Techincal Director was pleased to speak at Japan’s CBD Journey Vol.4 & CannaCon 2022

Read the full story by Cannabis Health News: Japan to legalise medical cannabis 

French medical cannabis trial reveals highly positive patient response 

Initial outcomes from France’s national medical cannabis experiment, launched in 2021, have revealed a “highly positive” patient response. According to the first set of clinical data, an overwhelming 91% of patients treated with medical cannabis were satisfied with the results. 

The trial followed the treatment outcomes of patients with treatment-resistant neuropathic pain, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, treatment-resistant epilepsy, oncology, and spasticity. Figures show that a significant proportion of patients who received medical cannabis treatment experienced improvements in their symptoms.  

This included the number of patients with treatment-resistant neuropathic pain who reported ‘severe’ or ‘unbearable’ pain falling from 81% to just 29% after six months of treatment. Despite the overwhelmingly positive results, however, reports suggest they could have little impact on the French government’s decision on whether to legalise medical cannabis. 

For the full story, visit BusinessCann: France Reports Highly Positive Patient Response To Medical Cannabis Trial, But Results Unlikely To Impact Decision To Legalise 

Oxford researchers to investigate potential of CBD as a treatment for psychosis 

Scientists from around the world, coordinated by the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry are set to launch a major global trial to investigate whether cannabidiol (CBD) can treat psychosis or psychosis-related symptoms. 

The research programme will involve 1,000 people, including those at clinically high risk of psychosis, people with a first diagnosis and patients with psychosis who have not responded to conventional treatment. Jazz Pharmaceuticals (formerly GW Pharmaceuticals) will supply the cannabidiol (Epidyolex) for the study at no cost. 

The international trial, which will involve 35 centres around the world, has been awarded £16.5 million by the charitable foundation, Wellcome. Wellcome is a global foundation that supports “discovery research into life, health and wellbeing” with a focus on three key areas: mental health, infectious disease, and climate and health. 

Read the full story at the Guardian: Oxford study to trial cannabis-based medicine as treatment for psychosis 

Italian Court Rules that Hemp Flower and Leaves are not a Narcotic 

The Lazio Regional Administrative Court has announced its ruling that the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant should not be considered narcotic substances, opposing an unpopular Ministerial Decree issued in January 2022.  

In May 2022, four grassroots cannabis industry associations together filed an appeal against the 2022 decree. The decree, which was itself an amendment to an earlier decree from 2018, sought to place the cultivation, processing and marketing of hemp flowers and leaves back under narcotics regulations. 

This latest decision puts Italy back in line with a 2020 ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice which found that CBD is not a narcotic and approved that CBD products be included In the EU’s rules regarding the free movement of goods. 

Find out more at Italian Court Rules Hemp Flower And Leaves Are Not Narcotic In Latest Victory For Industry 

A Third of Brits Would Choose Medical Cannabis Over Traditional Treatments for Mental Health Conditions 

A recent survey found that a third of Brits would opt for medical cannabis over antidepressants. Apparently, 32% of those taking part in the survey claimed they would choose medical cannabis as a treatment for depression as they feel it is “safer” than antidepressant medications. 

Almost half (43%) of those polled reported living with severe anxiety without an effective treatment option. Furthermore, 34% said that they believed the treatment they were receiving for their mental health was not personal to their condition. 

This is one of a number of surveys published in recent years that highlight the public’s changing attitude towards medical cannabis – in the UK and around the world. While medical cannabis is legal in the UK, access remains significantly restricted.  

For more information, read the full article by Wales Online: Third of Brits would opt for medical cannabis to treat mental health conditions 

So, there you have it – the top cannabis and cannabinoid-related news stories from February. Stay tuned for more industry news, insights, and roundups in the future.