East Asia: Marijuana Use Sparks Concern in Japan

Although marijuana use in Japan occurs at dramatically lower rates than in Europe and the United States, police and at least one newspaper are raising the alarm. On Saturday, the newspaper Mainichi reported, as its headline put it, Japan Grappling With Cannabis Crisis.

The newspaper cited a number of prominent recent marijuana busts in announcing the crisis. They have included university students, sumo wrestlers, actors, and professional sportsman, and almost all were for possession or use of small amounts of marijuana. It also cited an increase in the number of cultivation arrests.

Here are the hard numbers behind the "crisis": Since 1998, the number of people arrested for marijuana cultivation has increased four-fold... to a whopping 192, according to the Kinki branch of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's Compliance and Narcotics Division. Last year, police arrested 2,373 people on marijuana charges. By comparison, in the United States, which has roughly 2 1/2 times the population of Japan, more than 800,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges last year.

Under Japan's Cannabis Control Law, possession of even small amounts of marijuana can garner a five-year prison sentence, and selling it can earn up to seven years. There is no formal sanction for consumption, but the Health Ministry pointed out that people smoking together can and have been charged with joint possession. (No pun intended.)

Mainichi relied heavily on the Health Ministry narcs for its information. "There's no need for syringes, and it has this sense of cool to it. For newcomers to drugs, the barrier is low," the ministry said, attempting to explain the plant's allure. The ministry also warned that THC "can cause hallucinations" and that marijuana "is also known as a gateway drug."

Seeking to balance its account, the newspaper also came up with a Nagasaki International University professor of pharmaceutical resources who reprised a few more old canards. "It's more carcinogenic than tobacco, so to say there's no health effect is a big mistake," warned Yukihiro Shoyama. "Repeated use can also cause a motivational syndrome, similar to chronic lethargy, and deterioration of memory."

And if that weren't bad enough, the ministry narcs emphasized the dangers of getting busted. "Arrest, dismissal, expulsion from school... With the risk of collapsing those things that make up your life, isn't the risk of smoking cannabis too high? Think it over, and you should know the answer," said one investigator.

It looks like it's time for a Japanese NORML affiliate.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Japan and cannabis

Actually cannabis has a long history in Japan, and has been used for fiber and food for hundreds of years. A Japanese seasoning called shichimi actually includes hemp seeds as one of the 7 ingredients and can be bought in almost any supermarket. Cannabis seeds also are used as incense in Shinto ceremonies as part of the initiation ceremony for new emperors. I don't know what the legal situation is now, but the buying and selling of seeds was legal in Japan a few years ago and it was possible to purchase Dutch seeds at several of the head shops in Tokyo. The biggest drug problem in Japan (other than alcohol and tobacco) is amphetamines, which are a big source of income for Japanese organized crime. Japan is bizarre when it comes to this issue, with very strict penalties on the books for marijuana possession, while being relatively tolerant towards the sales of seeds.

effects of cannabis use

Cannabis is bad. Look at what a loser Paul Mcartney became.

effects of cannabis not use

Better look where goes world without cannabis use.

Thousands of years!

The history of Cannabis in Japan goes back to the Neolithic Jomon period, 10,000 B.C., and probably further.
It wasn't until WW2 that hemp cultivation was discontinued, thanks to the same people that demonized it here in the good ol U.S.A. and traded petroleum products for those traditionally made of hemp. It's an awesome history!!!
It was a huge part of their lives for food, fuel, shelter, medicine, pleasure, and spirituality.

taima.org

Japan's not very big

They're going to quickly run out of room for prisons.

Re: World War 2

The laws against hemp, according to Wikipedia, were passed by means of the "new constitution" promoted by famous and beloved Gen. Douglas MacArthur (that's him in the picture, with the tobacco pipe clutched in his mouth). Oh, by the way, in the decade or two after World War 2 cigarette addiction among Japanese men was over 60%, a magnificent victory for Big Guesswhocco

okinawa and marijuana

be careful in okinawa they have undercover who drive around looking for people who have dreadlocks so they can detain them unlawfully and then force them to produce a urine sample!!!!!! they then carry out the RCI test, which tests for all known basic drugs, if the test is positive! you can be arrested, even though it is not illegal to consume in japan.

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