by Sigeru Aso
On July 14, 2003, Mr. Naofumi Katsuragawa was arrested in Nagano by the Japanses DEA for cultivating over 100 plants of cannabis with intent to sell, half a gram of methamphetamine, ecstacy and some magic mushrooms. He is very well known in the underground Japanese pot world, dubbed as ‘Che Guevarra’ of Japanese cannabis. He served 5 years in prison in Japan, for he was a second time pot offender, and due to ‘sales charges’. The truth is, Mr. Katsuragawa never collected any money for marijuana, with the occasional exception of people handing over donations for his overhead eventhough he tried to refuse to accept it. He was simply providing cannabis to his close friends and several patients with serious illness’. One of his patients happenned to be a famous writer, with glaucoma, and he was busted first for receieving cannabis from Mr. Katsuragawa. This writer died not too long ago. Mr. Katsuragawa simply followed him to jail, due to the tenacious and cruel Japanese DEA interrogations. From the very beggining, Mr. Katsuragawa had intent to be busted. He was not hiding. He was posting pictures of his own pot on his website. He wanted to simply provide cannabis to those who wanted it or needed it, medical or not. He was sending cannabis via courrier services, all over Japan. This lead to his second time arrest.
Regarding the first arrest, Mr. Katsuragawa has always felt that he was not able to prove his point in court, and since then, wanted to fight for cannabis in the judicial system. There is not really any other way to fight in court such injustices in Japan, unless you get arrested for a specific case. The conclusion? Though he fought his case vigorsously, he received a five year sentence (not suspended) for spreading ‘poison’ among the Japanese public, and was told that the poisonous properties of marijuana was ‘public knowledge’. In short, this is what he did his time for. The judge refused to answer the attorney’s question of what properties of cannabis constitutes to be ‘poisonous’ in Japan.
Mr. Katsuragawa had a co-defendant, Mr. Kazuhiko Shiraska, a disciple of his own. He was growing over 330 plants at his home openly in the Nagano prefecture, while applying for a hemp growing license (but without written permission) to grow under recreational usage (which was considered to be preposterous at the time), while preparing for the upcoming trials that were anticipated. He is currently the organizer of THC Japan, our website.
‘Are we going to be OK?’ Mr. Shirasaka asked Mr. Katsuragawa, prior to being arrested.
His reply was simply ‘ofcourse not’ but added ‘this shall be a bountiful experience for the both of us’.
So they went on, cultivating and harvesting marijuana outdoors, while posting their proudly grown cannabis online. Mr. Shirasaka, being a first time offender, and not having ‘intent to sell’ charges tacked on, received a suspended sentence of five years. His initial charges included ‘concealing illegal cannabis’ for Mr. Katsuragawa, then switched to illegal cultivation. He made bail after 50 days and only served that amount of time.
In Japan, there is no law against smoking or injesting cannabis. This is due to the fact that legal growers for the hemp industry in Japan may inhale fumes and other ‘poisonous properties’ which may be consumed while harvesting the plants. Japan has created an extremely low THC strain of cannabis for industrial hemp. This is called ‘Tochigi Shiro’, known to grow 20 ft tall plants producing hardly any THC. However, such plants sometimes turn to hybrids by freak of nature. For more details regarding cannabis and Japan, please refer to the article ‘Cannabis and Japan’ posted on our english site.
So you may ask, why did a cannabis activist possess methamphetamines and ecstacy, and shrooms? According to Mr. Katsuragawa, he had many people coming and going in and out of his house, and people started to bring different drugs. Being a true libertarian, Mr. Katsuragawa claims that he believes the choice is up to the ‘consumer’. He was not experimenting with methamphetammines, but he liked to trip occasionally, whether it was LSD or shrooms or MDMA.
During their severe interrogations, Mr. Katsuragawa and Mr. Shirasaka refused to identify their patients and friends. One of Mr. Shirasaka’s cancer patients died during the trial.
Before his death, he jokingly asked for more pot.
Do you remember Paul McCartney getting busted in Japan for trying to bring in a couple of ounces of pot into Japan and was arrested and deported? Do you know the song ‘Band on the Run’? Laws have becom even stricter since then, and many Japanese growers have gone underground, growing pot mostly indoors. Pot also grows all over Japan from early spring to the end of fall. Many go and collect this hempy weed and make hashish and other derrivitives out of this low grade stuff.Imported pot and hashish from southeast asia, places like Nepal, India and Thailand, compensates for the weak pot growing wildly in Japan. Japan has very good pot and variety in general, but it is just not reccommended to engage in such activities in Japan, unless you are willing to do the hard time. Pot in Japan costs anywhere between $40 – $50 (4000 to 5000 yen) a gram, unlesss you buy wholesale or have friends who grow it. Wholesale prices of pot range from $9 – $15 a gram (900 – 1500 yen) through organized criminal elements, such as the Yakuza. Between friends, the prices are much more reasonable, if not free.
The Japanese self-defense force, and the Japanese DEA equivelent burn cannabis plants every year but simply cannot keep up to the abundance of pot growing wild. Hokkaido is perhaps the most well known spot for this, however, hemp or Asa in Japanese has been growing in Japan for centuries, if not longer, all over the country. Historically, the Japanese have lived closely with this godsent plant. It is used in many shinto rituals, sumo, and imperial ceremonies that are behind closed doors today. Mr. Katsuragawa’s goal was to spread the usage of cannabis throughout Japan, and restore its marijuana culture. It is a well known fact that from our beggining as this geographically isolated island nation, the Japanese have lived in harmony with this wonderful plant, for medicinal, craft, industrial and shamanistic reasons.
Until the end of war, cannabis derrivitives had been sold at regular drugstores, alongside methamphetamines, which promoted intense labor and growth of Japan into an econimical giant. Pressure from the post World War II US Government (the general headquarters – Japan Occupying Forces) were souly responsible for making this cannabis crop illegal. Behind this, there was a timber industry that would have not wanted to compete with this fiber filled plant, cannabis. Today, 16 states in the US allows medical marijuana, yet Japan doesn’t even allow to study cannabis for medical purposes. Therfore, big pharmaceutical companies from Japan do their research in America. They are currently lobbying to approve their own version of medical cannabis, a spray type inhaler. Such harsh Japanese policies are a reflection of the US Federal model of marijuana persecution.
Mr. Katsuragawa and Kazuhiko Shirasaka fought their cases to the bitter end. This report is intended to inform the world of the Cannabis Control Act of Japan, and it’s current problems.
However, you must know that in Japan, the conviction rate is close to 99% (!) after arraignment. Amnesty International has repeatedly warned the Japanese for it’s undisclosed interrogations and high conviction rate. Mr. Katsuragawa knew that his chances of winning his case to grow pot as being ‘unconstitutional’ were slim to none. Yet he chose to fight.
TO BE CONTINUED…