During the string of consecutive national holidays and weekends between Sept 17 and Sept 25 -- a period referred to as "Silver Week" -- large numbers of young Japanese headed for Thailand.
Many of them headed for Khaosan Road, a street once was originally popularized by foreign backpackers and described by a Thai writer as "...a short road that has the longest dream in the world,."
Along Khaosan Road, Spa (Oct 4) reports, marijuana can be found being sold openly on the street, and in the area's nightclubs the fumes of smoldering cannabis sativa waft through the air.
It seems that the previous June 9, Thailand removed marijuana from the government's list of banned substances.
"While Thailand is the first country in Asia to legalize use of marijuana, at present it's restricted to medical use," said Roland Park, a self-described "coordinator" who has resided in Bangkok for 11 years. "However, the news has reported that 3,000 people who were currently serving jail terms for possession or cultivation of cannabis have been released from custody, and the overall mood is that it's about to be decriminalized. The general view interprets this as a social experiment."
Park added that that purveyors of foods and beverages who lace their offerings with CBD (Cannabidiol oil, which is also legal in Japan) have also increased.
"The word has been spreading rapidly via social networks, so people have become familiarized with the drug," said Park.
Some Japanese corporate workers on assignment to Thailand aren't particularly happy with this development, and have voiced concerns that its availability might create problems for their dependent children.
"An Italian pizza shop where I often took my family began serving marijuana pizza from last July," said one such expatriate worker. "After that, more raucous Europeans and Americans began coming, so we gave up eating there. But now ramen shops and Korean restaurants have been offering similar dishes. It reminds me of the boom in tapioca tea drinks in Japan several years back. Places serving marijuana have been sprouting up like bamboo shoots after a rain storm."
In addition to Thailand, Spa also reviews the marijuana scenes in other popular overseas destinations, including Canada ("sold in stylish shops, and sales by online stores are increasing rapidly"); Los Angeles and New York City ("will legal sales of marijuana in the U.S. surpass $30 billion by 2025?"); and the Pacific island tourist destinations of Guam and Saipan ("marijuana expected to bring a rush of visitors in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The welcome mat is out for Japanese tourists").
Spa, inquiring to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, asked: Is there any possibility that Japanese who smoke marijuana abroad be arrested upon their return to Japan?
"There are a number of means by which violators can be punished for smoking outside the country," the official replied sternly. "These are handled on a case-by-case basis. From our standpoint, as the ministry entrusted with safeguarding the health of citizens, the harmful effects of marijuana are widely known, and we are making efforts to urge Japanese who travel abroad to refrain from smoking it."
Hisashi Sonoda, professor emeritus at Konan University and an attorney at law, pointed out that "The warning issued by the Japanese government about smoking overseas is based on interpretation that those who violate the law banning cannabis while abroad can be prosecuted. However, Article 24 of the Cannabis Control Law stipulates, "Marijuana may not be cultivated or possessed without authorization, which can also be interpreted as 'violating the law in the host country.' So in situations where the 'without authorization' stipulation does not apply -- as is the case in countries where cannabis is legal -- we should consider that legal use of cannabis in such countries does not constitute a violation of Japanese law."
Sonoda warns, however, that the police might choose to pursue those who post irresponsibly on SNS or show videos in a manner construed as promoting use of marijuana.
"Upon returning from abroad, one can't rule out the possibility that people who smoked overseas might be arrested or detained," Sonoda warned. "So one should not act rashly."© Japan Today