Japan's health ministry said Monday it is planning to ban HHCH, a synthetic substance that mimics the effects of cannabis, as soon as this week after people who consumed gummies containing the cannabinoid had to go to the hospital earlier this month.

Once HHCH, or hexahydrocannabihexol, is designated as a psychoactive drug, its possession, use and distribution in Japan will be illegal, health minister Keizo Takemi said in a press conference.

"Please refrain from consuming (the gummies) as they are dangerous," said Takemi.

On Nov. 4, five individuals, ranging in age from their teens to their 50s, fell ill after consuming gummies distributed by a man at a festival in western Tokyo, according to investigative sources.

Last Friday, the health ministry's Narcotics Control Department conducted inspections of a company that manufactures the edibles in western Japan and five stores selling the gummies in Tokyo and Osaka.

Gummies containing HHCH were found in one store in Tokyo. The ministry has ordered sales of the product to be suspended until an analysis of its components is completed.

The health ministry is also considering banning all substances with structures similar to HHCH, which can cause hallucinations and memory impairment.

The primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis, known as THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, is already banned in Japan.

(Published Nov. 20; updated Nov. 21 with corrections)

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