‘Cannabis Gummies’: Tighten Regulations to Prevent Damage to Public Health

In an increasing number of cases, young people and others have complained of health problems and have been transported to hospitals by ambulance after eating gummies believed to contain substances similar to cannabis. The government must strengthen regulations to prevent the spread of such health damage.

Cases of emergency transportation to medical institutions for people who ate products known as “cannabis gummies” have been confirmed in Tokyo, Osaka Prefecture and elsewhere. The products are sold in stores and on the internet at prices such as ¥7,000 for 10 pieces, with claims that eating them will give purchasers feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

According to a company in Osaka City, one of the manufacturers and sellers, the gummies are made from a synthetic compound similar to a cannabis-derived hazardous substance. As this synthetic compound is not regulated by law, the company’s president said that “it is not illegal,” and the company has been selling the product since April this year.

Cannabis can cause hallucinations and impaired consciousness, among other symptoms. The current situation, in which products that produce similar symptoms can be easily purchased, cannot be left unchecked.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry intends to designate the synthetic compound as a controlled substance and ban the manufacture, sale and possession of products containing the compound. This is a natural response. The ministry should urgently call on people not to eat such products that are already in circulation.

The practice of slightly changing the chemical structure of a cannabis-derived hazardous substance to evade regulations and then sell it as a “legal product” has been repeated in the past. In addition to gummies, it is used in a variety of other products, such as cookies. The apparent aim is to process the cannabis-derived substances into familiar confectionaries and overcome the hesitancy of potential purchasers.

Whenever the government has become aware of such products, it has identified the hazardous substances and added them to the list of items to be regulated. However, as new compounds soon appeared, “cat-and-mouse games” continue.

It is advisable for the government to consider introducing a system to enable adding a wide range of hazardous substances to the category of controlled substances. Compounds are often imported from overseas. It is also important to make efforts to collect information on new compounds and regulate them before they cause damage.

The spread of the use of cannabis among young people is serious. According to the National Police Agency, 70% of those detected in cannabis cases are in their 20s or younger, and junior high and high school students have been conspicuous among them.

Videos explaining how to use cannabis are being disseminated from sources in countries that have legalized its use, and social media sites are filled with misinformation such as “cannabis is safe” and “cannabis is legal, so it’s OK.”

Such a situation is one of the reasons why more young people are interested in cannabis. At universities, a number of arrests have been made among members of sports clubs and other organizations.

Cannabis is called a “gateway drug” to the abuse of more dangerous drugs such as stimulants. It is necessary to repeatedly tell students at home and at school not to lightheartedly use cannabis — and that includes cannabis-like products such as infused gummies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 22, 2023)