lifestyle

In Hokkaido there’s weed everywhere, but not a drop to smoke

43 Comments

Japan tends to be a very drug-shy country. Most people you talk to will say that they’ve never gone anywhere near substances like marijuana, and according to a Public Library of Science survey, 98 times out of 100 they’re telling you the truth.

And yet you might be surprised to hear that there is an abundance of cannabis growing wild all over the northern island of Hokkaido. But before you go booking a ticket, you may want to learn why.

Crops as high as an elephant’s ear

The wild plants found in Hokkaido have existed there for centuries. Japan had long used hemp for fabrics, rope, and paper, and the government oversaw vast fields of it in production. Hokkaido Seima Kaisha, founded in 1887, was among the biggest growers in Japan. However, even before then, with all the cultivation going on it was only natural for nature to take its course and wild plants to begin popping up outside of fields.

The hemp industry has since been nearly extinguished in Japan, but its legacy lives on in millions of wild plants which can be found there, especially in less-populated northern regions like the Okhokst Coast line. Anyone looking to head out there for a good time might be disappointed, though, as this was largely industrial hemp with presumably low THC (emphasis on the “presumably”).

That doesn’t appear to deter everyone, though, such as a pair of men who were arrested in September of this year. The 23-year-old farmhand and 37-year-old part-time worker were caught in Shari, Hokkaido with eight plastic bags stuffed full of wild growing marijuana that they harvested for their “own personal use.”

In Japan, heroin was the gateway drug

Japan’s use of cannabis both as a material and medicine continued well up to the end of World War II. However, with occupation by the US came the Cannabis Control Act in 1948. This shut down all hemp growing occupations and removed all marijuana-based treatments from drug store shelves in the country by 1951. It was a major turn-around in the nation from widely making use of the plant to banning it with extreme prejudice. Especially given most people in Japan didn’t really seem to care about recreational use before or after the law went into effect.

Taking that at face value it would be as if your government suddenly banned polyester or Fisherman’s Friend cough drops: a weird move and inconvenience but nothing that would affect our day-to-day lives all that much. On the other hand, Masamutsu Nagahama, formerly of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, reported back in the ’60s that Japan had successfully nipped a potential narcotics frenzy in the bud.

In a report he made in 1968, Nagahama praised Japan’s efforts to curb drug use in post-war Japan which he says had exploded. Nagahama states in his report that right after World War II there was a surge in amphetamine use between 1946 and 1955, and that trend was followed by a heroin boom from 1955 to 1962. Interestingly, throughout this tumultuous period there was no significant increase in marijuana addiction among Japanese people.

“Cannabis is controlled by the Cannabis Control Law of 1948. Cases of cannabis crime in Japan are generally of foreign origin and the situation is being closely watched. There has been an increase in cannabis offences lately and in the number of arrests of foreign sailors and soldiers on leave from the Vietnamese war fronts who import cannabis into Japan. … We cannot find any abuse of LSD but in view of the unfortunate results of its use in some European countries and in the United States of America a strict watch is being kept. In conclusion, we think we can state that the drugs problem is under control thanks to the strong line taken to eradicate addiction, loyally supported by public opinion, good treatment arrangements in rehabilitation centers and a great improvement in the standard of living of the Japanese people.”

[Masamatsu Nagahama, A review of drug abuse and counter measures in Japan since World War II]

Nevertheless the Cannabis Control Act, which seemed to have been a sleepy counterpart to the overarching Narcotics Control Act, is still in effect, doling out hardline sentences from half a century ago. You may recall back in the ’80s authorities even locked up Paul McCartney for 10 days before deporting him, despite a considerable loss of revenue for all involved.

Fish meat processing requires an extreme level of alertness

Back in 2014, September saw another spate of arrests, this time in Shibetsu, Hokkaido. A group of men, nine of whom worked for a local salmon processing plant, were arrested for possession of around 4 kg of dried marijuana. In addition to their criminal charges, they were terminated from their jobs of packing salmon roe. Apparently, they couldn’t get high off handling fish eggs day in and day out alone.

The Japanese government also sends out survey and destruction teams each year to destroy wild growths of marijuana, nearly 90% of which are said to exist in Hokkaido. The peak was in 1983 when 8.5 million plants were removed from their habitat, but recently the number has dropped to around 660,000 plants removed annually. So, if you’d like to help them in the “removal” process, just know it’s probably decidedly crappy and runs the risk of jail time even for a first offense.

It would seem whether it’s dancing, file sharing, or deep-frying weed, a big part of the Japanese government’s solution is to throw the book at any offender in the hopes of curtailing a greater social problem down the road. Whether this is effective policing or the stifling of social progress really depends on how you feel about one or all of these things.

Sources: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Wall Street Journal, Naver Matome, Yomiuri Online, Hokkaido Prefecture

Read more stories on RocketNews24. -- Nagano police bust up cannabis tempura camping party -- Hokkaido police on look out for creepy one-man game show -- Squid Sperm – One More Reason to Not Eat It

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43 Comments
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Amazingly short-sighted and unscientific policy making. Alcohol. drug and tobacco companies are the only ones reaping any benefit.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Who really cares only weak willed people feel the need to use poisons in there bodies. Could care less about the medical aspects of it as well. That gets abused enough in the states, Ohh I have tennis elbow well better get some weed. Just stop using legal or illegal poisons and do something constructive with your free time.

-32 ( +9 / -41 )

The Japanese government also sends out survey and destruction teams each year to destroy wild growths of marijuana

This sounds expensive and well... more than a little dumb. If this plant hasn't been eradicated in 60 years then it is unlikely to ever be eradicated. In fact the cynic in me suspects that the "destruction teams" are spreading a little seed around as they go in order to ensure their job security, but even if that isn't the case then this plant is probably here to stay, and will probably never be completely destroyed.

Wouldn't a more cost-effective and sensible solution be to just offer a "bounty" to hunters and other residents of Hokkaido? Report marijuana plants growing somewhere and get a reward. Don't pick it or destroy it, just report it. That'll save a lot of money. And if there are really less than 600 000 in an area bigger than 80 000 square kilometers that's probably the most cost-effective solution.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

right after World War II there was a surge in amphetamine use between 1946 and 1955

Japan is the birthplace of methamphetamine, which was first synthesized here in 1893 by chemist Nagayoshi Nagai. Later, crystal meth was first synthesized by Akira Ogata in 1919.

During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army issued it to its soldiers, resulting in many who were addicted to it in the early post-war years. Japanese crime figures for the late 1940s show 'hiropon'-related crime (Japanese transliteration of 'Philopon' the former brand-name of methamphetamine) as the nations most prevalent crime statistic.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Kuribo, dude.....like chill out man. What's with the heavy vibes?

10 ( +16 / -6 )

Marijuana and hemp although from the same family are not the same. Hemp has been cultivated for hundreds of years and has thousands of commercial uses. You can smoke hemp if you want to but it won't do anything. For goodness sakes, Hemp seeds are used in bird food and is found in some Japanese condiments. It seems that only favoured people are allowed to cultivate hemp in Japan.

Yet, you can't import nutritional hemp seeds, hemp oil or Doctor Bronner's hemp oil face soap in to Japan.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Just stop using legal or illegal poisons and do something constructive with your free time.

Says the person writing comments on JT. Pot-kettle-black way of thinking I do believe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@25years in japan "Yet, you can't import nutritional hemp seeds, hemp oil or Doctor Bronner's hemp oil face soap in to Japan."

Not sure about the Dr Bronner brand, but seeds, protein, oil, and soap are readily available in Japan on the Amazon and Rakuten and other online sites, as well as shops around the country. The Body Shop online and shops around the country also has a line of hemp body care products.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kuribo.Smoked Marrijuana does not have an established Ld50 therefore it can hardly be described as a poison. Oral LD50 of grain alcohol: 10.6 g/kg in young rats, 7.06 g/kg in aged rats.[5] Oral LD50 of nicotine: 50 mg/kg in rats.[6] Oral LD50 of Table Salt: 3000 mg/kg in rats [7] LD50 of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)[8] (active ingredient found in Cannabis): Fischer rat, oral 1,270 mg/kg 1.270 LD50 of smoked and inhaled Cannabis or Marijuana: unknown, at present it is estimated that marijuana's LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000 (the "1" in the prior estimate is based on an "effective dose" of the .9 grams contained in NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes, although the potency of Cannabis changes based on the genetics of the source plant)[9] Hemp nuts, hemp oil and hemp protein powder can be bought in Shinjuku in organic food stores and online via hempkitchen.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@25years in japan

Above I wrote that I wasn't sure about the Dr Bronner soap because, although I had a vague memory of seeing them somewhere, I couldn't remember where. I have now remembered and confirmed that the soaps containing hemp oil are available online in Japan at The Flying Pig, Dino's, and Amazon. If they are available at Dino's and Amazon, which are major companies here, I would also think they are also available at many other places.

Anyway it is clear that the things you said cannot be imported, actually can be and are being imported and sold widely.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hemp seeds are in Togarashi Pepper too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@kuribo1

Who really cares only weak willed people feel the need to use poisons in there bodies.

An almost comically lazy argument which doesn't stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. You're saying that lawyers, doctors, CEOs and the like don't drink alcohol or blast a bit of weed now and then? Sportspeople? Artists, musicians, novelists? If you look at any area of human productivity or achievement, you'll struggle to find people who don't rely to some extent on one poison or another.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I agree with Kuribo. Thought I was the only anti-weed poster here.

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

I'm just as surprised as you at how intelligent the huge majority of posters have been in this thread!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@ Kuribo1DEC

Could care less about the medical aspects of it as well.

I hope you never have to suffer through cancer. Marijuana = appetite. If you don't eat, you die.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

For pain relief, fine... under medical supervision. For people to get off their faces stoned... no. And since I don't drink or smoke I don't care if booze and cigs are banned too, pre-empting that particular argument ;)

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

thunderblunder, , increase taxes on an unsuspecting public, put up more hurdles for doctors and researchers to jump through, restrict research, and create a paramilitary force to break down your doors and throw you in jail for drinking a glass of wine? There are countries that do this, but I am pretty sure you wouldn't want to live there!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

War against this or that people or religion should turn into war against drugs. No excuses. Nothing good comes from drugs use at all.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

`@Frankie Wilde- There's the data , thank you. Though I doubt many posters will read and digest it. Also check numerous peer-reviewed studies in The Lancet et al about the relative addictive qualities and potential for harm of a variety of substances

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hemp is used for making the traditional kyudo strings. Only the best quality long fiber strains can be used. Wanna know what kyudo is? Check my avatar..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Kato_Koshiro - I'm neither advocating nor condoning the use of recreational drugs but judging by your comment I'm guessing you haven't tried any and are going by the anti-drug message that has been drilled in to you from an early age. Therefore you are not in a position to comment on the positive or negative effects of recreational drugs.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

If it ever allowed buy shares in the Corn Chip / Potato Chip companies!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As a parent I think it is great that there are so few drugs in Japan.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

As a parent I think it is great that there are so few drugs in Japan.

As a parent the prevalence of crystal meth frightens me

2 ( +4 / -2 )

And in the meantime we have the loophole drugs "spice" that kills people just because weed is illegal and strictly condemned. The war on drugs is the biggest joke and most expensive and ineffective measure to keep conservatives' vote. It does not help addicts nor solve any problem as drugs have never been easier to get than it is now. Stop creating misery on drug traffic, legalize it!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@Stewart Gale and any "druggie": Judging by your comment and from anyone who says "nevermind" for any type of drugs, you're all lucky for living all your lives in the 1st world. Never tasted what is to live enough time in a country where the harsh and constant fear of drugs users or drugs trafficking related people is as an obvious daily grind as to take out the garbage. A country where television can run news for 3 hours everyday approaching exclusively on all the sort of crimes committed by people related to drugs trafficking, drugs addicted people and by people who uses drugs "only as recreational". A country where nowhere can be considered a safe place, spot or neighbourhood and at the end of the day, you are the prisoner. Yes, that's one the countries from where your harmless recreational drugs goes from. Therefore you are not in a position to comment on the positive or negative effects of recreational drugs. Regardless of having or not ever tried.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

@Stewart Gale and any "druggie": Judging by your comment and from anyone who says "nevermind" for any type of drugs, you're all lucky for living all your lives in the 1st world. Never tasted what is to live enough time in a country where the harsh and constant fear of drugs users or drugs trafficking related people is as an obvious daily grind as to take out the garbage. A country where television can run news for 3 hours everyday approaching exclusively on all the sort of crimes committed by people related to drugs trafficking, drugs addicted people and by people who uses drugs "only as recreational". A country where nowhere can be considered a safe place, spot or neighbourhood and at the end of the day, you are the prisoner. Yes, that's one the countries from where your harmless recreational drugs goes from. Therefore you are not in a position to comment on the positive or negative effects of recreational drugs. Regardless of having or not ever tried.

Dude, what on Earth are you talking about?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Kato_Koshiro If you legalize (I mean harmless weed, not deadly heroin right) you end the traffic and violence related to it. How many Cigarette Lords or Alcohol Lords do you know? Plus you can educated people, rely on real therapy instead or jail time and save tons of government money and police time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Kato-Koshiro - I'm not a druggy. Please desist the name-calling.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As a parent I think it is great that there are so few drugs in Japan.

The other side of the coin is that kids/young adults are (understandably) clueless about the issues, because their parents are, their teachers are, as are most other sectors of society with an interest. What information they do get on drugs like marijuana is very likely to be wrong or simply mendacious propaganda. (In my own country, Britain, the government tries to hold to that line as well, but at least it is openly scoffed at, because it's untenable. Their information and policy is directly at odds with what senior police officers, journalists, newspaper editors, and their own scientists are telling them - and us).

Instead of marijuana, young people are likely to try other things. Solvent abuse is one problem that's been around for a long time in Japan. So has methamphetamine. A problem with treating all "drugs" as evil (except for the one that have been preselected as socially acceptable, like tobacco) is that there is morally little difference in people's minds between marijuana and heroin.

Which is stupid.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Stewart Gale: I'm sorry. Pleas discount the druggy regarding you. @Kakukakushikajika and anyone with this "legalize now" thinking: Again, you're all very very lucky for living all your lives in the 1st world. Probably because you only know the tip of the thread of those who can sit, relax and enjoy his/hers marijuana cigarretes or any so called recreational drugs. Once you live enough time in a country which is in the beginning and in the middle of drugs producing/distributing net, you realize that this legalize speech is nothing but to sugar-coating things. Solves nothing but only worses. Remember that you're dealing with high money in countries where corruption in government is embedded as cultural tradition. What will happen is the rise of a new kind of international drugs traders protected by a brand/trademark. Traders which in the front, deal as written on the law for domestic market but in the back carrying on doing as before. In addition, the "classic traders" will continue their business as always. In the end, by legalizing recreational drugs (mainly marijuana), you'll only double the problem. So this legalize way of thinking is nothing but selfishness of those stoned airheads who nevermind about the long way their beloved hemp makes from its origins untill their cigarretes.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Kato Yes, south and central America are a mess because of drug prohibition. Go to Colorado, it is not. And I do live in a country which is at the beginning of the line. Japan. Most marijuana in Japan is grown in Japan. When I first came here in 1997 you could buy magic mushrooms and peyote in shops in Shibuya. Grown in Japan. Methamphetamine used to be made in Japan but now it is usually imported. LSD and ecstasy are also imported. But we are talking about weed not meth. I have lived in many countries where you can grow your own at home legally and guess what. No gangster shit!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

In Hokkaido there’s weed everywhere, but not a drop to smoke

Please, if I wanted to be smoking-rope I would have stayed in the states. Pot dulls the brain and makes one lazy and simple.

It's illegal and if you are stupid enough to smoke it you deserve to be deported.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

There are many good comments here. A few poster are quite ignorant, however. Read all of the comments again and you might learn.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What i don't understand is the contradiction of statements.

First, there are a lot of articles that express the idea of restricting smoking in closed areas, public areas not being enforced enough, but then, when it comes to Marijuana articles postulate that it is bad that it is prohibited?.

In My country it is the same thing, It is illegal to cultivate, harvest and dealing marijuana, his consumption it is not. There are factions that support the idea of legalizing it, but at the same time promote the restriction of smoking, with the argument of second hand smoke and health issues.

How is marijuana better?, it is true that there are certain medical uses, but it is mostly a recreational drug, does it make damage to your health? yes, It destroys your neurons, does it affect people around you? I guess that too, same as second hand smoke, Me, I'm allergic to the smell of someone smoking pot, the minute someone starts smoking a marijuana cigarette, i start crying and mi sinuses hurt...

So, I would like more consistent article, you know?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Joicerojo What evidence do you have that marijuana destroys neurons? It is an antioxidant! Neuroprotective. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10863546

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@frankie yeah there are also studies that it affects memory and blocks neurotransmission: http://science.howstuffworks.com/marijuana3.htm

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Of course it blocks neurotransmission. That is why it is used in the treatment of neuropathic pain? As for short term memory disruption. Sorry what were we talking about?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

People who do not like to use Marijuana and do not want to see it legalized have the right to express that opinion but when you start saying that people like myself who enjoy recreational weed and would love to see it legalized are stoned airheads and that it makes you lazy and simple, not only is that insulting it is not factually correct. I do not think Seth Rogen could write and star in all of those movies if he was lazy and simple and I do not think that Bill Maher could articulate the way he does if he was a stoned airhead. There are more than enough hard working, wealthy, famous and creative people who partake of weed to disprove the fact that weed makes you a lazy, simple stoned airhead.

The number of cancer victims and people with other ailments who are getting relief from their symptoms and are able to function better because of the weed they are taking cannot be denied. With all the suicides and the amount of depression in Japanese society, at the very least Japan should be looking at legalizing Medical Marijuana.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

People who do not like to use Marijuana and do not want to see it legalized have the right to express that opinion but when you start saying that people like myself who enjoy recreational weed and would love to see it legalized are stoned airheads and that it makes you lazy and simple, not only is that insulting it is not factually correct.

It's not particularly insulting, other than to the person making the argument. There's a solid enough base of pot users among the highest achievers and most admired figures of the last fifty years that we can dismiss the claim on the basis of being completely without merit. It is as moronic as saying that someone who indulges in alcohol cannot be a useful member of society. All the evidence shows otherwise.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Of course it blocks neurotransmission. That is why it is used in the treatment of neuropathic pain? As for short term memory disruption. Sorry what were we talking about?

I suffer from Neuropathic pain, I don't need weed though, there are other legalized drugs and medicines for that, (since I'm allergic) plus, the damage occurs when you abuse it, with a recreational drug, it is easier to get addicted and abuse it...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

In the U.S. there are 46 deaths from a prescription overdose per day. Opioid pain relievers were involved in 16,917 overdose deaths in 2011; in 31% of these deaths, benzodiazepine sedatives were also cited as contributing causes Marijuana overdose deaths .....wait for it......Zero!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@FrankieWild,

Thank you for your comments... Hemp also has many applications, but many corporations do not want the competition!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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