by Shigeru Aso
Historically in Japan, cannabis has been used for many centuries, until the end of World War Two, when Gen. Douglas McArther and the General Head Quarters (GHQ) decided this ‘Godsent’ herb to the Japanese people were immoral, and dangerous to not only the public health of the Japanese people, but to the chemical fiber industry. Until then, cannabis grew all over Japan, and today the Self Defense Force and the Japanese equivelent of DEA goes to such places and burns the plants. Many people don’t realize that our historical crop is the same thing as this ‘dangerous and immoral’ drug.
Propaganda against cannabis is very prevelent in Japan, both from the mass media and the centralized and local governments. It is taboo here to even discuss marijuana, and medical use for cannabis.
Cannabis has deep roots in the Japanese society, not only as medicine but for the purposes of creating rope, clothing, food, shamanism etc., and plays a big part in our Shinto culture including sumo, shrines and imperial ceremonies.
Hemp, or Asa in Japanese, appears in many different Haiku’s that were written by famous Haiku poets. One goes like this: ‘In the dawn always there will be a storm of hemp’ – by Shiki Masaoka, perhaps one of the most imporatant Haiku Poets in Japanese History. We consider this to be foreshadow or metaphor for our new coming age of legal Cannabis in Japan.
Until the end of war, and the US Federal Government imposed the Cannabis Control Act, Japan used to sell East Indian Cannabis Solutions and various cannnabis derrivitives at regular drug stores to treat pain and constipation, lack of sleep and furthermore.
On the other hand, methamphetamines were kept legal to promote and increase labor and high productivity. Eventually, methamphetamines bacame illegal as well, as social problems arroused.
The Cannabis Control Act, forced upon us by the aforementioned GHQ, has no title or reason for it to exist. Does this sound like a first world democratic country to you?
The Cannabis Control Act carries a maximum sentence of up to five years for simple possession, regardless of the content – whether it’s seeds that can grow or it’s just leaf, you will get locked up if you are caught. Cultivating carrries up to 7 years in Jail. Unless it is considered for sales purposes, usually first time offenders receive a suspended sentence, however, repeat offenders and those who violate the suspended sentences are sent to prison for ‘rehabilitaion’ for sure. Medical marijuana is no exception. Such prolonged sentences are known to be extremely ‘hard time’. Japanese jails are clean, yet very strict. Only a very selected few may obtain a license to grow pot in Japan, mostly for harvesting seeds for food and stocks for hemp. However, our country does not even allow doctors to experiment with cannabis to alleviate pain and other disconmforts for patients.
The courts are rather malicious towards those who try to fight such unconstitutional laws. The courts seem to lack the concept of separation of administration, legislation, and judicature, for heavy punishments are imposed on those who intend to fight the law.
By the UN, it is estimated that about 1.7 million Japanese people have experienced cannabis.
Occasional users are estimated at 300,000 potheads. We believe these numbers are dramatically increasing, for many young people have turned to indoor growing. About 3000 people are caught every year and such ‘victims’ of the Cannabsis Control Act usually have there lives completely destroyed by imprisonment and media and it is quite common to lose their jobs and educational status.
There are two different main sources of how cannabis is obtained in Japan. The first is importation from third world countries such as Thailand and Nepal, India, Cambodia, Indonesia etc. There is very high quality pot circulating among the underground pot smokers today. Hashish (also known as Choco) is also very popular. The next method is guerilla growers and indoor cannabis cultivation. However, perhaps our biggest problem is that often the cannabis is imported and distributed by the Yakuza, our Japanese mafia. These people sell amphetamines , MDMA and various chemical drugs as well, and this is a problem for the low-end user, often tricked into buying harder and more dangerous drugs. It is our high priority task to try to separate such pipelines for hard illicit party chemicals, and marijuana. Slowly this is changing, due to the fact that many indoor growers have become the source of circulating marijuana.
The internet has also played a big role in the spreading of cannabis for medical and recreational use in Japan, for the interent offers valuable information from all over the world. The Japanse public is slowly learning the truth about cannabis. It also helps that many Japanese people travel abroad, and often are fortunate enough to encounter marijuana in legal environments in good settings.
Overall, in Japan, the punishments simply does not fit the crime. The criminal element of cannabis can be resolved easily by utilizing the existing licensing laws to grow. However, it is not very realistic at this point to obtain a marijuana cultivation license, for it is even very difficult to obtain such proper paperwork. The government often refuses to issue licenses, to any new growers. This seems to be the governmental policy, eventhough each governers of each prefecture reserves the ultimate right to issue the license or not.
In Japan, quite surprisingly, it is not a crime to inhale marijuana, for farmers inhale fumes from legal cannabis and may test positive from first hand and secondary contact at any time. Cannabis for a long time has been a symbol of a large yield of rice crop, and was commonly grown around the rice patties all over Japan. However, as mentioned before, possession of any amount without a license is strictly prohibitted. Ninjas also utilized the fast growing properties of this plant to train for their high jumps, by jumping over hemp trees everyday.
As a cannabis legalization group, we strongly recommend that travelers to Japan not to engage in smoking, cultivating and importing pot into Japan. The airports are high-tech, and there are sniffing dogs regularly. The customs agents are professionals at spottting the tourists carrying cannabis and other illegal drugs. The Japanese police are tenacious and malicious regarding cannabis control laws, and usually when a dealer is apprehended, all of his/her clients tend to follow them to the nearest jail, where you can be held up to 20 days with no official charge. The conviction rate in Japan is 99% (!) after arraignment. Foreigners with cannabis charges will be deported immediately after serving his/her own sentence, with an occasional exception for those who are married to a Japanese person or have Japanese children or permanent residency.
Thank you for your time, and please keep us in your heart, for we are trying very hard to participate in this world-wide movement to legalize medical and recreational cannabis.
CANNABIS AND JAPAN
by Shigeru Aso