The Japanese Cannabis Control Act, implemented by the occupying forces of the United States shortly after World War II strictly prohibits the medical and clinical application of cannabis by doctors and researchers. Industrial hemp is permitted, but this requires licensing which is very difficult to obtain.
The clause that prohibits clinical research is promulgated in the Cannabis Control Act – Part 4 section 2 and 3. Currently, the goal of the legalize marijuana movement in Japan is to eliminate this particular clause, which shall eventually allow cannabis use in various treatment and perhaps as a preventative healthcare measure, and even help those with debilitating medical conditions.
It is most certain that the short and long term effects of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima will lead to the increase of various types of illness’ including thyroid cancer etc., in children and adults, just as it did in Chernobyl, if not worse. Medical marijuana could perhaps be the answer to the suffering caused by such illness’ and the side effects of chemotherapy. In short, medical marijuana is much needed in Japanese society today.
Japan is also one of the leading countries in the use and abuse of sleeping medication, anti-anxiety medication (mostly benzodiazepines), which is promoted by large pharmaceutical companies who lobby hard to sell their products. Cannabis could easily replace these harmful drugs, in may cases. On the other hand, certain Japanese pharmaceutical companies have spent a lot of money on the research for Sativex, an oral/nasal spray that is derived from cannabis, often used in treatment to alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis, cachexia (wasting syndrome) caused by AIDS, cancer, and further more. Such research is done overseas, because of the aforementioned clause that prohibits cannabis derived medications. Sativex is still not available in Japan.
Most cannabis legalization groups have come to agreement that the urgent issue is to eliminate Part 4 section 2 and 3, in order to at the very least allow clinical cannabis studies in Japan. However, different groups seem to have different names for this particular proposition, which is finally at the stage of collecting signatures from the citizens of Japan. The universal idea is the same, but different groups are currently getting ready to do so without each other’s cooperation. This is a shame.
It is a relatively well known fact that Japan had medical marijuana until the end of the war. Japan had East Indian tinctures and dried cannabis sold as medication for asthma, lack of sleep, and to enhance the appetite, etc. It is most certain that this type of medication was used widely to treat many other different types of illness’ as well.
The elimination of the Cannabis Control Act Part 4 section 2 and 3 will certainly be the first step to the legalization of cannabis in Japan, especially medical marijuana, which is a hot issue these days, nationally and internationally. Until then, cannabis remains an illegal drug, considered the same as methamphetamine which is a big problem in Japan, and cannabis remains punishable by up to 10 years for distribution with intent to sell. Low level offenses such as personal possession and cultivation (without intent to sell) even carries up to a maximum of a 5 to 7 year sentence, in a harsh, strict prison, which is clearly a violation of human rights. In fact, Amnesty and many other international agencies have repeatedly warned Japan of its prison systems and its violation of basic human rights. It is simply not worth it to get caught in Japan for a little bit of ganja, unless you (and probably your family) are willing to suffer. Yet about 3000 people get busted every year and about a million or two Japanese have tried cannabis in one form or another.
Now is the time to change the law. Until recently, the only way to contest and challenge the Cannabis Control Act was by getting busted and fighting the constitutionality of cannabis prohibition in the court of law. On our website, we have many articles referring to this matter. Many have tried before by getting arrested on purpose to fight the law – and the law won. The Japanese courts from local to superior, has refused to seriously consider the medical properties of marijuana. The courts have not addressed the right to life, the right to pursue happiness, etc., and ignored the claims by those who mention that cannabis has positive medicinal properties.
Signatures are important, in the sense that it is influential on politicians who write and amend the laws. If they see that there is a big demand for medical marijuana, which there is, they may see the signatures as potential voters. Hopefully in the near future the legalization groups can come together and collect enough signatures to influence Japanese politics. Until then, perhaps non-violent civil disobedience is the only way – but only if you are willing to do the time.