Japan is hell for stoners; with its zero-tolerance cannabis laws, deep social stigma, and efforts to tighten consumption rules, consuming Marijuana openly is impossible.
It was hard to believe that it happened when you saw Ai Takahashi’s friends twerk, body-roll, and light up to “Young, Wild & Free” in a small club in Tokyo.
They are not smoking illegal Marijuana. Instead, they are smoking a joint containing cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating chemical from cannabis.
Takahashi explained to AFP that Marijuana was a no-no in school as a child. But she said that she had tried it in other countries where it was legal. The 33-year-old dancer became more interested in CBD when it was legal in Japan. CBD is extracted from the plant’s seed or fully grown stems.
You can buy it in vapes, sweets, and drinks at specialty cafes and health shops. She said that CBD made a considerable difference when Takahashi encouraged her mother to try CBD, who is a patient of depression.
That was when she realized the power of cannabis.
Visiongraph, a Tokyo-based research company, estimates Japan’s CBD market to be worth $59 million in 2019. An increase of 3 Million USD in 4 years.
The government is currently discussing the possibility of approving marijuana-derived medicines, which are already being used in many other countries to treat severe epilepsy.
Despite the growing interest in cannabis’ health benefits, the country continues to be tough on illegal use. The number of arrests keeps increasing yearly due to the illicit use of Marijuana.
This is why Norihiko Hayashi (who sells cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN in stylish black and silver packaging) advises discretion.
It’s legal. However, we ask that customers enjoy it in their homes. The 37-year-old said that you should not smoke it on the streets.
Hayashi believes that Japan could legalize Marijuana for medical use one day. But for recreational use, he says that it could probably never happen during his lifetime.
From Canada to South Africa and recently Thailand, many countries are adopting a relaxed approach to Marijuana.
Japan is still a country where drug use is considered taboo. Famous Japanese celebrities who have been caught with narcotics are shunned and criticized by their fans. Only 1.4 percent of Japanese people have said they’ve tried Marijuana, as opposed to over 40 percent in France and half Americans.
Despite this, cannabis-related arrests have been on the rise for almost a decade, reaching a record 5,482 in 2021, with most offenders still in their teens and 20s.
Masashi Yamane, a health ministry official, told AFP that the internet is saturated with false information claiming cannabis isn’t addictive or harmful.
Ministry warns that THC in cannabis can cause impairments in learning and muscle control and increase the risk for mental illness.
Authorities are working to address the loophole by closing an exemption that was initially intended to prevent farmers arrest from inhaling psychoactive smoke while growing hemp for products like a rope.
So consumption is technically legal for farmers by mistake, but owning it can get you five years of jail time while selling it will land you seven years of prison with a possible fine of 2 million yen. For growing or smuggling, stricter sentences may apply.
The Japan Cannabis Control Act was passed in 1948 during the postwar U.S. Occupation. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, a history professor who’s studying narcotics in Japan, explained to AFP that “these draconian laws against a drug which wasn’t really a concern remained on the books.”
These rules have distressed celebrities like Beatle Paul McCartney. He was in detention in Japan for nine days after authorities found cannabis in his luggage in 80’s. Although Thailand allows cannabis growers and possessors to grow Marijuana under new, complicated guidelines, it still prohibits recreational use.
While Japan could legalize cannabis-derived medicine as early as this year, there is little evidence that politicians or the general public support further relaxation of the rules.
Ryudai Namoto, a 21-year-old employee at a CBD shop, said that people view Marijuana as something that outlaws favor. “I don’t think it’s that way. I know some people gravitate to it for health and medical reasons. But that’s not how the general public views it.”