Prior to 1948, Japan saw cannabis as having spiritual, medical, and utilitarian use. While cannabis policy is evolving around the world, Japan continues to treat marijuana as a harmful narcotic.
Possession of marijuana has been outlawed in Japan since the Cannabis Control Act of 1948. The law was enacted by the United States when it invaded Japan after WWII, and it has remained unchanged since.
The hemp plant thrived abundantly in Japan prior to the introduction of the Cannabis Control Act, and the country had no problems with drug misuse.
The hemp industry was spared at the time thanks to the Emperor of Japan’s assistance. He was successful in obtaining hemp permits, and the crop is still produced in Japan today.
Unfortunately, the number of hemp farmers has been dropping since the 1950s. They’ve gone from a population of over 35,000 to less than a hundred. The pricey agricultural licences and dwindling demand for natural fibres are to blame for the collapse.
Growing low-THC hemp is the most straightforward hemp cultivation licence to obtain in Japan, but farmers are eager to see changes in the law that would make it easier for them to cultivate the plant.
Many think that improvements would aid Japan’s agricultural sector since hemp is a sustainable crop with environmental benefits.
What is the Legal Status of Cannabis Possession and Use in Japan?
Anyone found with or smoking marijuana in Japan gets a prison sentence. The fear of being ostracised is one of the most powerful deterrents. People can be expelled from educational institutions and possibly lose their jobs as a result of their possession or use, which is not unusual.
After being arrested for carrying 7.7 ounces of marijuana into Japan in 1980, Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, was barred from entering Japan for eleven years. After one of Japan’s national players was caught in possession, Toshiba pulled its sponsorship from the team.
Actress Saya Takagi was also charged with possession. Her shows were taken off the air. She has now been a vocal supporter of cannabis legalisation.
Selling, importing, growing, or being caught with an amount of cannabis that is likely to be utilised for personal gain carries a term of seven to ten years in jail. Offenders may face fines of 2 million yen for possession with intent to sell and 3 million yen for importing or growing cannabis, depending on the circumstances.
Furthermore, when Canada legalised cannabis in 2018, the Japanese authorities issued cautions that using cannabis outside of Japan is likewise prohibited. Of course, enforcing the rule would be difficult, and no action has yet been done.
Selling of CBD in Japan
In Japan, the selling of CBD has been legal since 2016, and some companies can now make CBD products. Nonetheless, the strict rules have had an impact on enterprises, and consumers are unaware of the therapeutic benefits.
However, demand for cannabis is rising, and Japanese entrepreneurs are coming up with creative solutions. Kota Shimomura is the owner of CBD Coffee in Tokyo, while Priyanka Yoshikawa has developed a CBD skincare brand.
Within five years, Shimomura predicts the industry will overtake the tobacco business. “We are a country of workaholics who need relaxation and one-on-one time,” Yoshikawa previously told Cannabis Health Insider.
Advancing Cannabis Legalization
Legalization supporters will continue to campaign for improvements to the legal status of marijuana in Japan, no matter how strict the regulations are. Green Zone Japan and the Japanese Clinical Association of Cannabinoids are among the proponents.
Green Zone’s mission is to educate the public and keep medical professionals informed about medical cannabis. The Japanese Clinical Association of Cannabinoids, meantime, was founded in 2015 and is now formally affiliated with the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines.
Its goal is to promote and support cannabinoid research in Japan. However, it appears that in Japan, even speaking favourably about cannabis on the internet can lead to arrest.
Late this year, Japan Today reported the arrest of two persons for promoting unlawful behaviour on social media by posting messages applauding cannabis consumption.
Their messages sparked a flood of pro-cannabis messages, and they were arrested as a result. The man and lady admitted to breaking the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Act’s Special Provisions Act.
It is extremely rare and difficult to enforce this unclear law. After all, many people in Japan, including Saya Takagi, are publicly campaigning for medicine.
The harsh regulations that surround “marijuana” aren’t stopping people from using it. Cannabis-related arrests are on the rise, with over 40% of those detained being in their twenties.
Governments all across the world are reviewing and revising their own laws as a result of social acceptability. Japan, while being a technologically savvy and innovative country, will have to revisit its cannabis regulations at some point.