Japanese Health Minister Considers Regulation of ‘Cannabis Gummy’ Ingredients; Increasing Number of People Report Feeling Unwell after Consumption

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Drug enforcement officials of the Kinki Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare are seen entering a building in Osaka on Friday.

Gummies containing a cannabis-like ingredient are under the spotlight after a growing number of people reported feeling unwell after consuming them. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Keizo Takemi said Friday that he intends to consider adding the ingredients used in the gummies to the designated narcotics list.

Takemi highlighted the issue as a “serious health and hygiene concern” during a press conference after Friday’s Cabinet meeting.

The gummies are produced by food production and sales company WWE Corp. located in Osaka City. The packaging states that the sweets use the synthetic compound HHCH (Hexahydrocannabihexol). While HHCH bears a resemblance to a cannabis component regulated by the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Law, it is not designated as a regulated substance.

On Nov. 4 in Tokyo, five individuals who consumed the gummies were hospitalized. Since January, a dozen or so individuals in Osaka Prefecture were taken to hospital after complaining of nausea and other symptoms. Among them, four men in their 20s have confirmed eating the gummies.

Osaka City authorities conducted an on-site investigation of the company on Nov. 10, and the Osaka Prefectural Police are working on identifying the ingredients used.

On Friday, two regional narcotics control departments of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, in accordance with the law, conducted on-site inspections at multiple stores in Tokyo and Osaka City. According to sources, some stores selling the sweets received orders to halt sales.

It has also been recently revealed that in late August, the prefectural police conducted searches of WWE over suspicions of violating the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Law after illegal substances were detected in plant fragments sold at stores in the city.

“If narcotics are identified in the analysis, we will promptly consider adding them to the designated narcotics list and contemplate prohibiting their possession, use, and distribution,” Takemi said.

President intends to continue sales

WWE Corp. President Daisuke Matsumoto told reporters in Osaka on Friday that gummies containing cannabis-like ingredients were not illegal and the company will continue to sell them.

Matsumoto said that the company, based in Kita Ward, Osaka, began selling the products in April this year via the internet and in stores, saying that the products make customers feel “excited or relaxed.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
WWE Corp. President Daisuke Matsumoto talks with the press in Chuo Ward, Osaka, on Friday.

The company purchased the ingredient, Hexahydrocannabihexol (HHCH), from an importing company in Japan, and produced the gummies in its own factory.

Sales of the products “have been steadily growing,” he said, without mentioning how many of the products are currently in circulation.

When asked about incidents in which people suffered from health problems after eating the gummies, Matsumoto said: “It’s regrettable. People probably ate them incorrectly or in wrong quantities.” Regarding the possible regulation of HHCH by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, he says that other dangerous products using alternative substances may appear, adding that the ministry “does not understand the risks of the restriction.”