Cannabis has had a long history in the country of Taiwan, with its use documented as early as 8,000 BCE. Neolithic archaeologists have found pottery with hemp cord markings on as well as a rod-shaped stone beater used to pound hemp.
Due to modern-day international prohibition, the East Asian nation currently lists cannabis as a Category 2 narcotic. This means that personal possession can result in up to three years in prison, and planting or suspected trafficking can lead to seven years.
A former prosecutor told Jason Pan of the Taipei Times in July that most people in Taiwan who use cannabis are white-collar professionals, many of whom are university graduates with no criminal records. As a result, authorities do not come across cannabis often.
Because of the harsh prison sentences and emerging medical cannabis movement, the Green Party of Taiwan and other activists have been trying to achieve some semblance of progress for safe access to the plant.
Green Flower spoke with Zoe C.C. Lee, the Deputy Secretary General of Green Party Taiwan and a senior attorney at the ZHU Lu Law Office, who has dedicated much of her career to cannabis reform in her home country in order to get the latest developments on the subject.
Green Flower: Please tell me your background and how you became involved with cannabis reform in Taiwan.
Zoe Lee: I was Green Party Taiwan’s legislator-at-large nominee, [and] one of our policies is to legalize medical marijuana. Although we failed the election, Taiwan’s FDA accepted this conception and approved certain medicines with THC or CBD [only for] use in very limited symptoms. I’m currently running a law firm that focuses on cannabis law — mostly criminal cases.
GF: What is the current status of cannabis in Taiwan?
ZL: Cannabis is classified as a category 2 narcotic under the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act in Taiwan. [It] is not traditional medicine here, [we] cannot use herbal cannabis for any purpose.
GF: How open is the Taiwanese government to medical cannabis legalization?
ZL: As of May 7, 2020, the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) announced that cannabinoids can be used medically and that CBD specifically was never a controlled substance, meaning but it must follow pharmaceutical laws.
This announcement suggests that medical cannabis is de jure legal in Taiwan. However, despite this announcement, the legal limit for THC content for any cannabis-related products cannot exceed 10ppm which is 200 times lower than the UN World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 0.2 percent. Currently, the only legal medical cannabis products in Taiwan are Epidiolex, Marinol, Sativex, and Syndros.
GF: Is it safe to say that Taiwan is behind other countries in Asia in regards to cannabis reform?
ZL: I believe Taiwan is behind in Asia.
GF: Knowing this, what is your prediction on when cannabis will be legalized in Taiwan?
ZL: I believe we will be fully legalized in 10 years.