Japan has a historical connection with cannabis, much like many other cultures in the world. Cannabis has been cultivated for at least 10,000 years, perhaps from the early Jomon era. In fact cannabis plays a key role in the Japanese Shinto rituals, as a metaphor at times, and as an actual object to worship in others. In the animistic religion of Shinto, cannabis appears in shapes of gods as well. Cannabis has been used to make Kimono’s to rope, and perhaps was used widely in shamanistic events.
Today, we mostly smoke it. Industrial hemp is strictly regulated, and it is very hard to obtain such licenses which allows hemp farmers to grow weed. Medical marijuana is not permitted, because there is a clause in the Cannabis Control Act that prohibits any medical application of cannabis. However, it is important to note that this law was implemented by the occupying forces of the United States shortly after the war. Until then, Japan had it’s own medical marijuana, mostly tincture products derived from East Indian marijuana.
The pot scene in Japan is deeply underground, but there are estimates that count between one to two million potheads in the entire country. It is bigger than most people seem to think, but very well hidden. About 3000 people a year get busted for cannabis related offenses. Strict, lengthy sentences await those who are busted with intent to sell. Same goes for those who get busted more than once. First time offenders (???) usually get a suspended sentence, whether it’s for possession or cultivation. It is not highly recommended to smoke pot or grow it in Japan these days, or even try to smuggle any cannabis products including seeds. Seed importation has now officially become a punishable offense unless you can prove the seeds are processed for cooking or for some other reason besides cultivating the ganja.
There is absolutely no sense to the Japanese Cannabis Control Act, which is full of contradictions. First of all, there is no law against the usage of pot, only possession. Even though modern studies have suggested time and time again about the positive medical properties of marijuana, the laws about medical marijuana have yet to be amended. Japanese doctors and scholars are prohibited from even studying the medical properties of cannabis.
The Japanese media has always treated cannabis issues with extreme sensationalism, but this is changing. Much of this is due to the legalization of cannabis in two states in the United States. Perhaps the media is beginning to come to its senses. As medical cannabis is the hot issue these days internationally, the Japanese pot legalization scene has put their focus on eliminating the clause that prohibits the clinical application of cannabis. The universal idea is to eliminate PART 4 section 2 and 3 of the Cannabis Control Act that makes it illegal to even study marijuana in Japan. Most Japanese legalization groups have come to agreement about this. Whether or not they can unite and achieve such goals is a whole different matter. The Japanese cannabis legalization scene is an extremely small community with limited resources. Most groups are not working together, for one reason or another. It is time to for all legalization groups to overcome their personal differences and unite.