East Asia: Japanese Marijuana Arrests at Record Levels

Japan's National Police Agency reported Thursday that marijuana arrests were at an all-time high during the first six months of this year. Police said 1,446 were arrested for possessing, using or trafficking in marijuana, up 21.3% from a year earlier. Of those arrested for pot offenses, 63.2% were under the age of 30, suggesting that marijuana use is spreading among young people.

One hundred four people were arrested for marijuana cultivation, up 40.5% over the same period last year. Home cultivation of marijuana is assisted by the availability of seeds and grow supplies over the Internet and by consumers' fears of venturing into illicit drug markets.

The 40.5% increase in grow busts in the first half of this year comes after a 50% increase in grow busts during the first half of last year.

The record arrest figures come as Japan comes to grip with a growing marijuana culture. In the past couple of years, the country has seen repeated "scandals" around marijuana use, including the expulsion of three Russian wrestlers from sumo competition for smoking pot, the arrests of various celebrities, and a national freak-out over students at prestigious universities smoking pot.

The apparent increase in marijuana use in Japan comes despite mass media denunciations of it and despite harsh drug laws. Under the 1948 marijuana control law, any pot offense can earn a prison term of up to 10 years.

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Several Amazing Observations

1. I did some quick math and it seems there are less than 1/100 as many marijuana arrests in Japan as in the US??? So is this increase any big deal?

2. The 1948 harsh laws against cannabis were dictated by General Douglas MacArthur (with his corncob pipe full of tobacco, the signature American crop). Postwar
Japanese were eager to sign on quickly in order to avoid more nuking of cities etc. and to participate in "liberal" Truman-era American aid, getting good old capitalism going on an American-style basis.

3. Tobacco addiction boomed bigtime with up to 80% of male adults hooked by the 60's, now still near 50%. Worth noting: consumption was fewer cigarettes per addict than in US, and many used holders-- like Shinichi Suzuki, shown in a book cover picture with a cigarette in a three-inch holder a la FDR, definitely safer than right in the mouth like almost all addicts in our country. Suzuki lived to age 99 and Japan still has longest life expectancy on planet.

4. For all his billions, Paul McCartney couldn't avoid getting arrested for one (1) ounce of cannabis which he had brought along hoping to inspire his band which the Japanese audiences were going to pay big time to listen to. Shot themselves in the foot they did.

5. The only answer to the enigma is the Japanese, traditionally polite and deferent, have remained eager to suck up to Uncle Sam and that may take more decades to fade away unless we act first, legalize in California and across our land, whereupon they will probably get in line.

It's amazing how people all

It's amazing how people all over the world can be so brainwashed against marijuana, and how many decades it takes to undo the fear of it. For crying out loud, we drink alcohol all the time!

Japan has never had a very

Japan has never had a very high per-capita incidence of cannabis use. Methamphetamine use is, however, much more common in Japan and has been for decades. Japan has had a consistently high rate of ATS use since the end of WW2.

Japanese authorities prosecute more people for possession or manufacture/sell/supply offences related to amphetamines than related to cannabis.

The recent increase in canabis arrests, and the fact that most arrested individuals were under the age of 30, might indicate a significant shift in Japanese drug culture.

However the total number of arrests is still very low. It might simply be the result of a change in policing practices.


response to Maxwood

Actually, Maxwood, I think there is a much better reason for the draconian drug laws of Japan: fear of non-conformity in the populace. All Asian countries have extremely strict punishments for illicit drug use. Possession of marijuana is treated the same as that of heroin in many places. Oddly enough, cutting edge "research chemicals" can actually be bought on the street in Tokyo though the list changes constantly.
What I'm getting at is that I don't think the u.s. foreign policy is currently the reason behind the ridiculously stringent laws in Japan.

Malkavian's picture

Very traditional country

While the youth culture is very experimenting the "official Japan" seems very conservative. Alone the fact that the same political party has held office in 54 years is amazing, yet it looks like this year they may get new political leadership.

Also, their emperor has long been regarded a bit like the Pope or even as a bit of a god in his own rights (anyone thinking Goa'uld might get the picture :-P ). Furthermore, they don't officially seem to be very open minded, e.g.. there is a lot of censorship on historical matters, especially the atrocities - if not genocide - committed during the Second World War.

US drug policy probably couldn't be said to have caused the Japanese drug policy, but the US model would likely have found fertile soil to grow in.

I'm not sure how much the Japanese are influenced by Confucianism, but as I understand a central tenet of that is the orientation towards "the central pillar of society" and trying to act accordinly. At least that would support Anonymous' argument that there is a greater fear of non-conformity in that region.

Just top-of-my-head on Japan :)

Oh yes, japan...

Japan has got a long history, therefor huge culture, resulting in people having shit loads of stuff inbedded in their heads what is right or not. One thing is that they honor is hard work so obviously drugs don't match with that, which could be considered as a disgrace for "cheating" or slobbing around. The kids go through spartan like education since they start kindergarten.

Although being japanese myself, I have to admit a lot of Japanese people are far behind in the concept of humanity. I really like Japan, lovely country, but like the simpson guy before me mentioned, the inhabitants are still really conservative and probably will be for a long time due to isolation. Heck, they are living in a small island. I often hear them say they feel uncomfortable around foreigners due to a huge difference in mindset, and also a sense of being ashamed for their horrible english. Engrish* Well, it is understandable, innit? Just look at the difference in sense of humor, rofl.

I think the country has a long reservation of originality in time, if not an eternal one.

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