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Japan going to pot: Celebrity busts and student smokers have authorities in a tizz

By Shaun Davies

Japanese marijuana smokers have a sixth sense. Or at least, that’s what Takeshi (not his real name) tells me as we sit in an increasingly smoky room in suburban Saitama, where a chunky, pungent joint is being passed from person to person.

“You don’t ask a person if they smoke. You just know. You’re a smoker and they come to you,” he says.

Takeshi rolls a mean joint, but that’s hardly surprising, as he’s been a smoker for 18 years. His friend Kenji’s not bad either. Both of them are in their 30s, hold down jobs, play sports and lead otherwise normal lives. They grow marijuana themselves, or otherwise access it through networks of friends.

“No one’s really selling it. Most people are just growing for themselves. They’re peaceful people and they just grow it and give it to their friends,” Takeshi says.

But after years flying beneath the radar, Japan’s marijuana underground is getting paranoid — and it’s not just the weed talking. High-profile cases involving celebrities, sports stars and university students have focused media and political attention squarely on what’s being portrayed as a marijuana boom.

“Now marijuana is big in the news because a lot of people are getting caught and everybody’s getting nervous,” Takeshi says. “Before it was kind of free but now the tension is getting bigger and we always feel kind of depressed. Everybody’s really uptight.”

3,793 marijuana-related arrests in 2008

Marijuana-related arrests soared in Japan last year — there were 3,793 in 2008, compared to 3,272 in 2007 and 1,670 in 1999. Four sumo wrestlers — three Russian and one Japanese — have been expelled for smoking grass in the past year, throwing the ancient sport into a crisis that claimed the scalp of the sumo association head Kitanoumi. At universities, including venerable institutions such as Waseda and Kyoto, students have been caught selling and smoking marijuana, mostly home-grown from seeds bought over the Internet.

The apparent spike in marijuana usage has sparked a wave of warnings about the apocalyptic threat the drug poses to society. An email sent to Waseda students thundered that marijuana smokers “all too often end up physically and mentally ruined, perhaps leading lives of crime.”

“There is no ‘innocent’ or ‘harmless’ way to take illegal drugs. In Japan, possession alone is sufficient to lead to the most dire of social punishments. Engaging in drug-related activity is utter stupidity,” it read.

Newspaper editorials followed a similar line. Railing against the “cannabis pollution” sweeping the country, the Asahi Shimbun mounted arguments against those who wonder why marijuana is illegal, while tobacco and alcohol are not.

“Banned substances, including cannabis, are believed to act on the brain’s ‘reward center’ that produces the sense of satisfaction felt when one achieves something. In short, they act on what could be called the source of human vitality,” it said.

But a significant number of young Japanese seem to be suspicious of this official hysteria, and a recent survey revealed that a majority of Waseda University students have no trouble accessing illegal drugs. So are we witnessing the emergence of Japan’s first stoner generation? And if we are, is that such a terrible thing?

Thriving marijuana underground

You won’t see any Bob Marley posters on the wall of Hemp Restaurant Asa in Shimokitazawa. Its clean white surfaces are awash with ambient lighting, and the kitchen serves up macrobiotic food made from hemp-derived ingredients.

The restaurant’s owner, Koichi Maeda, is one of Japan’s best-known hemp activists, campaigning for the legalization of cannabis for both medical and commercial purposes. Now 58, he has written several well-received books, including "Marijuana Seijun Ryokou" (“Young Marijuana Holiday”), about his adventures smoking pot around the world. He also speaks Arabic, English and Korean. In fact, Maeda is as close as you get to a celebrity in Japan’s marijuana underground.

“I think marijuana use is becoming more widespread,” he says, “especially as more and more people go abroad and experience marijuana in the U.S. or Southeast Asia.”

According to Maeda, most pot is grown in homes and distributed among networks of friends, rather than through organized crime gangs. He estimates that 2-3 million people smoke marijuana in Japan, although there are no hard figures to back this up.

“The police say marijuana becomes a source of profit for the yakuza, but marijuana smokers don’t like to have relations with the yakuza,” he says.

Maeda is big on the history of cannabis in Japan. Before the end of World War II, hemp was an important crop, and not because of any narcotic qualities. It was widely grown in the Japanese countryside and used to make rope, nets, clothes and other products. Even today, religious robes that the emperor wears during certain ceremonies are made from hemp.

But when the Americans rewrote Japan’s constitution after World War II, hemp was outlawed— which led to protests from local farmers.

“In the Diet, there was an argument about hemp control,” Maeda says. “Some members of parliament, especially from the agricultural areas, fought against the control because they were very poor at that time and needed the plant.

“In the end, hemp was allowed to be grown with a license, and about 20,000 were engaged at the time. But now only 200 growers have the license because it is very strictly regulated. It’s almost impossible to get one — you have to build a very high fence, over five meters high.”

Strict drug laws

Japan has some of the world’s strictest drug laws, with heavy sentences meted out for relatively minor offenses. About five years ago, Maeda became embroiled in a high-profile case involving his friend, the late writer Ramo Nakajima.

Nakajima, who had gained a cult following with novels such as "Tonight, Every Bar in Town," asked Maeda to supply him with some marijuana, ostensibly to help with his glaucoma. Maeda enlisted a grower friend, who gave a 1/4 ounce to the writer. Police caught Nakajima with the pot at his home, and Maeda and the grower were also arrested. Nakajima later died after falling down a flight of stairs in an alcohol-induced stupor.

“I received an eight-month suspended sentence and three years’ probation. I fought that all the way up to the Supreme Court, because it was for medical problems,” Maeda says.

Maeda battled the conviction on constitutional grounds, but lost. He now has a criminal record, and his grower friend remains in prison five years later.

“Five years is too much. My friend is 56 years old now. I am really angry — he tried to help people. Even if glaucoma was not the main reason, I know that Nakajima needed marijuana for his depression,” he says.

Peter, a 36-year-old English teacher who hails from America’s west coast, also has first-hand experience with Japan’s marijuana law enforcement. Tokyo police caught him smoking last year, and he spent the next 10 days sharing a cell with a homeless man, a heroin addict and an “ore ore” scammer.

“We were out on the town in a pretty popular area in west Tokyo and me and some people I knew started smoking,” Peter says. “A couple of witnesses saw us and called the cops … it was just so surreal for me. I just thought, ‘Is this really happening?’”

Whisked away in a police car with sirens blaring, he soon found himself handcuffed and tied to a chair, where he went through several hours of interrogations about who owned the drugs and the one member of his group who’d escaped.

“I was in over my head, thinking this is more serious than I thought it was and this is not going to be an easy ride. When it really hit me was when they started doing the fingerprinting, because that was a precursor to going into a police holding cell,” he said.

For the next 10 days, Peter lived a highly regimented prison life. English was not allowed — he passed the time by revising Japanese textbooks which his girlfriend brought in. Peter speaks good Japanese, so he was able to chat with his cellmates, which helped alleviate the boredom. So did meals, letter writing and cigarettes.

“I didn’t really smoke cigarettes before that. You just look for the little things, anything you can do to get through the day. There were two breaks: one was sleeping at night, because your mind can take you anywhere you want, and the other was smoking a cigarette.”

Peter is circumspect about his experience. On the one hand, he can’t understand why smoking marijuana is regarded as such a heinous crime, but on the other he knowingly broke Japanese laws — in a public place.

“When you know that something’s illegal and you still do it, then you run the risk of getting caught. As much as my personal view is that marijuana’s not such a big deal, that rule is still there, and I think it’s important to respect that,” he says. “But I kind of felt it was a bit harsh. For doing something which causes no victims and is pretty much innocent, I think it’s pretty ridiculous, to be honest.”

Little chance of decriminalizing pot

It’s far-fetched to imagine that drug laws in Japan will change any time soon. Media, political and public opinion is stacked against those who would like to see pot decriminalized. Occasional pro-marijuana demonstrations, like the recent 420 March in Tokyo, draw hundreds of people, but in reality support for legal reform is very low.

“Of course, the smokers want decriminalization of marijuana, and other people want hemp for industrial purposes, and others for medical purposes,” Maeda says. “But it’s not yet very strong.

“Through the events of this last half year, the TV and the police and the government have tried to implant the idea that marijuana is very bad,” he continues. “Smokers become violent and lose their memory and become sick. But I don’t think this will affect a lot in the future, because in the last 15 years, people came to know the reality. Even if the government spreads false stories, people will come to know.”

Takeshi and Kenji, of course, support the decriminalization of marijuana. But they don’t seem keen to take the fight to the authorities — what they’d really like is for the public attention to disappear so they carry on smoking, without fear of intense police and government scrutiny.

“It’s about 50-50 in terms of whether people believe what the government says,” Takeshi says. “We don’t care what these people think. Their mindset is really old-school. It’s a really tight feeling.”

As the night rolls on in Saitama, so do the joints. Ideas are discussed, jokes are told and YouTube classics are shared. Eventually, the party degenerates into a jam session of staggering musical ineptness.

It seems bizarre that one curious neighbor could land us in jail, possibly for years. We’re criminals, every one of us — relaxed, giggling, happy criminals.

Local hotspots for hemp enthusiasts

Taimado: Store and online shop sell pipes, bongs, rolling papers, clothing, incense and CDs. 2F, 2-6-5 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku. Tel: 03-5454-5880. Open daily noon-11 p.m. Nearest station: Shimokitazawa. www.taimado.com

Hemp Restaurant Asa: Serves a full menu of healthy hemp-based dishes. 3F, 2-18-5 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku. Tel: 03-3412-4118. Open Mon-Tue and Thu-Fri 5-11:30 p.m., Sat-Sun & hols noon-11:30 p.m., closed Wed. Menu in Japanese and English. Nearest station: Shimokitazawa, south exit. www.asanomi.jp

Chanvre Hemp Beauty: Offers a variety of oils, aromas and unguents. 5F, Yokoyama Building, 2-11-8 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino-Shi. Tel: 0422-20-5306. Open Fri-Wed 11 a.m.-8 p.m., closed Thu. Nearest stn: Kichijoji. www.chanvre.jp

Stoner slang

Grass: Kusa, gurasu, uiido, haabu (くさ、グラス、ウィード、ハーブ) High: Toba sareta (飛ばされた; lit: flying away) Whacked: Buri-buri (ぶりぶり) Joint: Jointo (ジョイント) Bong: Bongu (ボング) Wanna roll it?: Maku? (巻く) Roach: Ro-chi (ローチ)

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine.

© Japan Today

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I am deeply distressed to learn that Japan's Political/Legal Authority chooses to mimic America's insane Drug Persecution.

The litmus test for Lawful Power in America was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. No Power that contravenes the Principles supporting that Action has Lawful Authority, but that hasn't stopped government's systematic violation of Americans' unalienable right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

How can it possibly be a crime to self-medicate and use recreational alternatives to alcohol? The Nuremberg Precedent should be applied to the Drug Warriors.

How dare my Government claim to champion Human Rights!

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About time

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I should think that people would be more distressed that "2-3 million people" are smoking pot.

I am really confused on why this is a debate. Marijuana is addictive. If someone says there isn't any evidence to this, he or she isn't looking for it or doesn't want to look for it, or is able to moderate their intake and wants to ease their efforts in obtaining it.

Evidence researched:


When it comes down to it, majority rules. If the majority of the population was smoking marijuana, we wouldn't be having this debate. The fact is, the majority of people know that marijuana use is not good for the body. Come on, smoke entering the lungs??


Throwing a political spin on it makes this debate more interesting. If we took it the other way and political candidates were building their campaign on the legalization of marijuana use, we all know who their voters would be. And they would be the minority. Time will tell when that will change.

Just to let everyone know, I've had friends whose lives and families were destroyed by marijuana addiction. It really does affect society negatively. And we question why Japan authorities are making swift responses? In no way do I look down on those who decide to use it, because it is their choice.

For those who claim that they have been smoking for 20 years + and are not addicted, I challenge that they quit for an entire year.

Now, there are benefits derived from marijuana. It's called THC. So the whole idea trying to push this whole medical marijuana thing is debunked, because the same medication can come from this pill which has been on the market for a while.

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US drug policy; the definitely of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result

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This has such great timing especially since that singer's son just got busted for weed possession.

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Haha...nice inclusion of stoner slang! Tah!

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I firmly believe that marijuana is a gateway drug.

A gateway to good times and released stress.

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that's a false belief. rather, alcohol is more of a gateway drug.

and more prescription drugs kill people that does pot.

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the following from the article:

The apparent spike in marijuana usage has sparked a wave of warnings about the apocalyptic threat the drug poses to society. An email sent to Waseda students thundered that marijuana smokers “all too often end up physically and mentally ruined, perhaps leading lives of crime.”

This is a fallacy. Saké poses more of a threat to society than pot.

Moderator: This story is about pot, not sake or any other alcohol. Stay on topic please.

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Overall, this article is part of a nation-wide disinformation campaign against marijuana. Nothing in it is true, and the anecdotes are skewed in such a way as to demonize marijuana.

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Urufuls -

Look, marijuana is like any other vice, and it's addictive nature is really more about the individual user. I'm sure there have been many lives ruined by marijuana use, but I am also sure there are many lives that have been enhanced by it as well. We could go tit for tat all night trading stories, but what really needs to be looked at is the individual and their actions. If a person can lead a productive life, contribute to society in a positive way, not harm others, and use marijuana, then there is not justification in punishing them. As the article says, I doubt marijuana will ever become legal in Japan, but the laws and penalties regarding it need to be adjusted. If a drunk driver can get away with just a fine, how can you justify jail time for smoking marijuana. Your blanket argument doesn't work.

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urufuls:   The basic issue here isn't whether or not marijuana is good for you; it's whether or not its illegality is consistent with the legality of other drugs, namely alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol abuse clearly is more harmful to the body, and causes more social problems in the way of violence and traffic accidents; tobacco is more addictive, and more carcinogenic (come on, smoke entering the lungs?), and yet these are legal. So I'm sorry you have friends whose lives were wrecked by ganja, but my grandfather died of lung cancer from smoking two packs a day, and very dear friend of mine drank himself to death at the tender age of 31, yet that doesn't mean I think either of these substances should be outlawed.

BTW THC in solid or liquid form acts too slowly to be of use to medical marijuana users, who generally rely on the substance for immediate relief. Short of injection, inhaling is the only suitably fast delivery method.

Also BTW, marijuana can also be ingested (not so pleasant with tobacco), thus avoiding the whole smoke-in-the-lungs problem. The effect is much slower in onset, but longer-lasting.

Legalization, regulation, and taxation (on commercial production) of marijuana makes a lot of sense. People already use it anyway, and it's doubtful that many more would just because it were legal, just as plenty of people decline to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco regardless of their legality. In fact, legalizing it might actually reduce marijuana's supposed effect as a "gateway drug", in that there would be a clearer difference between its status and that of other, harsher illegal substances.

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I think there are already a lot of problems with the young Japanese. They dont need any drug to be legalized and add to the many of problems I referred to. What comes next?

Moderator: Readers, once again we remind you that the subject is marijuana, not alcohol or tobacco.

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'in a tizz' not a phrase you see in too many headlines

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What is it with people and illegal drugs? Didn't interest me when I was young and doesn't interest now. Moreover, the people I knew when I was young who were stoners never really amounted to much. Indeed, over on Facebook a couple of months ago I tracked down the guy in my high school class who was the biggest stoner, real popular with the girls he was to. I don't know what he has been doing over the last 20 years or so, but he looks about 60. According to somebody who has spoken to him, his brain is also addled as a result of a healthy pot habit. I suppose it just another form of substance abuse in his case, but it was a bit of shock to say the least.

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Solution is to make it legal in Okinawa, and throw the book at anyone you uses or possesses outside Okinawa.

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timorborder Sure you are not jealous he had all the girls and a great party life youth? If you check medical research (which is extensive), they is no correlation between cannabis use and pre-mature aging. You shouldn't gossip about opinions of other peoples mental state, especially if you are not qualified to diagnose them.

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busted. take a bow

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jonnydesu & Udaman - Great discussion! Some great points raised here. Many agree with you that marijuana is a vice, including most societies. Just look at the definition of vice, and we can begin to understand why the Japanese government in particular is setting forth harsh measures.


I believe the Japanese society actually has looked at the individual experiences with marijuana, and determined that the dangers and detriments to said society far outweigh the enhancements that some allude that marijuana has.

It would be naive for a government to not do its scientific and social research first.

Here's the research again by the US.


I certainly agree with you that the laws in Japan should be changed. Drunk drivers should be put in jail. The argument that because other vices are legal, that marijuana should be also because "it's less addictive than tobacco or alcohol" is valid only to the point that the majority of the populace is already using one or both of the latter, so instead of punishing users, regulations are set. It was a compromise. However that's for another discussion.

To make consistent the illegality of any vice mentioned in the article (marijuana, alcohol, tobacco) and in these discussions, they would need to either be completely illegal, or compromise and set regulations. I'm not positive whether or not alcohol and tobacco are more addictive then marijuana, because of the ease of obtaining the former two.

Marijuana is used so rarely that governments are trying to stave off the possession and use by their respective peoples before it becomes a problem like the widespread effects of alcoholism and tobacco. If we look just at the health care costs for just the health problems associated with these regulated substances, why in the world are we questioning why the government is trying to battle yet another vice from becoming prevalent?

Legalization, regulation, and taxation (on commercial production) of marijuana makes a lot of sense.

It does make sense if only people and governments are trying to make a profit on it. The US just raised taxes to $1 on 1 pack of cigarettes. Personally, I think it's terrible that anyone should be making money on the addictions of others. However it does not make sense to legalize marijuana just because there will still be some who "decline" to use it. Some people actually decline to use marijuana because it is in fact illegal. Once those measures are lifted, there will be some experimenting and the number that decline will gradually decrease. Those that decline to use marijuana now because they know of its effects to the body and society will still decline it if it becomes legal.

So the basic issue of the article is whether or not the illegality of marijuana is consistent with the legality of other drugs, namely alcohol and tobacco.

The answer to that is no. The principle behind it however is consistent.

If or when we see the majority of the Japanese population using marijuana to the point that the government can't enforce it, then I believe it will be legalized with regulations. Science and research show however, that it will be a mistake.

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Pot is a recreational substance that enhances fun. The insane War on Fun serves opportunists and parasites on both sides of the law. But at least the dealers give you something other than punishment for your money.

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It does make sense if only people and governments are trying to make a profit on it.

you are half right

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I for one am glad that Japan has a tough anti-drug law.

Sad thing just two days ago two persons from Nigeria asked if I was looking. Now this would have been common if it were in the slum know as Roppongi. But this was in Ishiwara near Taihei.......Sad drugs are now moving out of the slum and into our streets.

But at least the dealers give you something other than punishment for your money.

But it is illegal and it should stay that way in Japan. BTW dealer have been known to defend their client base by any means. Keep them high keeps them in the money.

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even if its legalized it will remain in the realm of the Yakuza, or State Owned Japan tobacco. In any way only stoners that home grow will benefit. Try to go out on the street and sell it and you won't last 15 minutes.

In Japan you can't even hand out kleenex tissues in a streeetcorner before clearing it with your local friendly Yakuza "jimusho" office first.

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Japanese authorities are making exactly the same mistakes American authorities made, and the results will undoubtedly be the same.

For starters, they grossly, horribly, overstate the problem. They make claims about usage that are simply rubbish. Inevitably, a small group of experimenters will come to understand the scope of official ignorance and disinformation, they will spread that understanding to others, and respect for authority will begin to rot.

The problem then becomes serious, because since authority has chosen to take an unwise stand, and to support that stand using unwise techniques, respect for authority begins to crumble in many directions, not simply about pot. Eventually, authority has little clout left -- even in areas where it doesn't take absurd positions based on ignorance and fear, and doesn't attempt to spread disinformation.

When authority presumes to tell individuals how to run their own lives, authority had better pick and choose its fights wisely, and it had better conduct such fights, once picked, wisely. Otherwise, authority will discover that it no longer carries much authority.

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The reason pot is illegal is because it makes people less uptight. Authorities are afraid of open minds and enlightened thinking, especially in Japan.

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I think it's not a fear of open minds, but a fear of change. Ignorantly and fearfully, authorities feel that Japanese culture will somehow change in some major and negative way if a significant number of people start smoking pot. I believe this is highly unlikely. I actually don't think that pot is psycho-active enough to radically change behavior at all. Therefore, I tend to ridicule the claims of adherents about pot's beneficial attributes (for example, that it produces enlightened thinking) as much as I ridicule the claims of Japanese authorities that pot is some incredibly dangerous substance.

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I actually don't think that pot is psycho-active enough to radically change behavior at all

it's not this that will have the effect. it's realising that the government lies to you and has little concern for your actual well-being. this has much larger ramifications. personally i hope people do start to realise more that they are largely exploited by those above them in society

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Yeah right...this country,an mj epidemic ?? hilarious.

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urufuls -

So if I understand your last post, then as long as a majority is okay with something then it should be legal? That just doesn't make sense. I understand the basic premise, but issues of legality should not be based upon majority rules. Laws should truly only be used to protect the individual, they should not dictate societies' morals. They should protect against doing harm to others, and to uphold contracts between people. They should not determine what I decide to do with my life. If health related issues are a factor in creating laws, then how soon will things like sugar or salt be outlawed? I know that is extreme, but that is what your position would lead to. As for marijuana and other recreational vices, yes they cause damage, but that should be the individuals right to inflict that upon themselves, it should be their choice. At the same time however, if some one chooses that path, and ends up in a bad situation, they should also be responsible for taking care of themselves. I very much dislike people using the drug addiction cop out when it comes to violent crimes. If you truly want a healthy society, let the individual decide their own fate, including the choice to use marijuana.

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Lawful v Legal

Lawful and Legal are not synonyms. There is an ethical element in Lawful that is absent in Legal. I submit that no Power that is repugnant to the Principles supporting the non-amendable American Declaration of Independence has Lawful Authority.

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THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is classified as a hallucinogen. How is the government supposed to brainwash us if we are thinking "outside of the box"? Weed and brainwashing do not mix. Alcohol, on the other hand, jives perfectly well with brainwashing and so do cigarettes.

Stop trying to fight the government and if you want to smoke weed then either don't get caught, or move to a place where it's legal to get stoney bologna.

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jonnydesu - I see your point, and it further supports what I feel. My point was that when the majority is strongly on one side, that is the side the government will take. In no way does that make it okay or should be necessarily made legal. It's just what happens many times. I completely agree with you that issues of legality should not be based upon majority rules, especially when the health of society is in question. I don't think comparing sugar and marijuana is valid in this discussion. Marijuana use and possession has been illegal for some time and we have yet to see sugar and salt mentioned, and I humbly disagree that my position would lead to the banning of such table condiments. The truth is health related issues are factors in affecting legislation. Here is the site to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare:


Here is another great site with this debate going on now on whether or not the US should legalize Marijuana.


Laws should truly only be used to protect the individual, they should not dictate societies' morals. They should protect against doing harm to others, and to uphold contracts between people.

I believe the banning of marijuana if because the government is attempting to protect the individual, which is why studies have been released on the effects of marijuana.

They should not determine what I decide to do with my life.

The government doesn't determine it, we always have a choice. The issue is that the individual always has the freedom to make their own choices, and marijuana users will partake regardless of the legality. If the current law states that marijuana is illegal, then that individual accepts the responsibility and consequences of breaking that law. The individual will always decide his or her own fate, nobody is denying that. The graying of the consequences of marijuana use however, should stop. Society is made up of individuals, and the government has an obligation, as you say, to protect the individual therefore protect society.

The purposes behind the legalization of marijuana are merely to make it more easy to obtain the stuff for recreational use. The arguments of the proponents to legalized marijuana are for the purpose of legalizing it with regulations, i.e. "No marijuana for kids, should only be used by 'responsible' adults."

For those marijuana users that believe that freedom is being taken away from them by the government being "too uptight", may I submit that marijuana use actually limits individual freedom? Try getting a marijuana smoker of 10 years or so to quit. The rehab centers in the US are filled with marijuana smokers.

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I don't smoke but have long held the opinion that weed should be legalized. Relative to alcohol and the social and medical problems it causes, I don't see why weed is illegal except that the corporate world have not yet opened their minds to how to make respectable profits from it as they have with alcohol and tobacco.

Weed is largely a scapegoat for other drug use. Which doesn't make sense.

Back in the US most people I knew who smoked were some of the most respectable people I knew. They held down great jobs with significant responsibility, had loving relationships, owned homes and nice cars and were otherwise very law abiding people. Oddly enough most of them thought that drinking alcohol more than a couple times a week was not a good idea. And even then, they drink in moderation.

For these people weed was a minor and rare escape from stress. It gave them the chance to chill and release their pressure for a couple hours. Nothing more, nothing less.

I say legalize it, government regulate it and make money from it. The model is simple. The government gives license to growers who conform to government standards and pay fees and taxes to grow and produce it. This is good for farming and the biproducts can be used for producing other items.

Downstream companies obtain additional license to buy and process the smokable parts. They produce products that are regulated, taxed and controlled. This is where the companies cash in and government benefits from their license fees and taxes paid.

Adults can buy it at government licensed shop, like alcohol but better controlled. Again encourages shops to pay the government for license and to pay taxes on products sold.

And Taro X can buy it, pay his taxes and go smoke happily.

The smokers I have met are mellow, cheerful and happy people. Or at least spaced out and harmless when smoking. Unlike alcohol which leaves people violent, disruptive and often puking on the trains or platforms.

Given a choice I would swap alcohol for weed in public any day and avoid all this drunken behavior for the hungry giggling smoker any day.

Stop wasting time on this and legalize it and make money from selling it Japan.

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My sister in laws sister died from smoking pot and driving when she was 19. My old school mate is now diagnosed schizophrenic after smoking for ten years. My best friends brother was just recently committed to a mental institution from smoking pot. In the long term it can destroy your mental health. In the short term if you drive you can die.

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My sister in laws sister died from smoking pot and driving when she was 19. My old school mate is now diagnosed schizophrenic after smoking for ten years. My best friends brother was just recently committed to a mental institution from smoking pot. In the long term it can destroy your mental health. In the short term if you drive you can die.

that's sad to hear but the fact is that no-one should be driving if anything less than stone-cold sober. also, the link between mental health and weed smoking is tenuous at best. thanks to the war on drugs it's not possible to do genuine objective studies that do not have a political bias. also, correlation is not necessarily evidence of cause and effect. empirical evidence seems to suggest that certain people are much more susceptible to mental health issues than others. also, a person's circumstances need to be taken into account; those using any kind of drug to escape their problems are likely to be living on borrowed time

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While I sympathize with space monkey for his losses, I am not prepared to logically attribute these sad events to pot. Clearly, driving while intoxicated (pot, alcohol, pills or lack of sleep) is asking for a disaster. Age and experience may also play a factor in a 19 year old crashing a car. For the friends in mental institutions, I have known a number of smokers and none of them have experienced deliterious effects. It in all likelihood increases the risks of schizoprenia by a miniscule amount and no more than other common medicines, like asprin.

Most of the legal opposition to pot is a result of commercial protectionism. Ask Asahi brewery if they want pot legalized. What would be the answer?

The major risks with pot are apathy. But I feel that those risks are a personal choice. Pot is not addictive, as many here are trying to state. It is more of a choice. I have seen many, otherwise normal, people choose to stop.

In terms of public education, the Japanese government appears to be taking the fear mongering a little far. I recall the US "just say no" campaign where they showed a commercial with a surgeon smoking before cutting one someone. It was an extremely laughable commercial because everyone knew that the doctor would be abusing morphine or some other deadly drug(s) rather than pot. It appears that the Waseda crowd doesn't believe the disinformation.

Oh, and Moderator, a discussion of pot should include other drugs and alcohol since they are legal and comparison with them is appropriate to understand the risks and rationality of current laws and perceptions.

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urufuls -

Let me go deeper into this idea of laws and legislature attempting to dictate our lives. What is good for us, what is bad for us? Who should decide this? The second the government starts creating laws regarding this issue, then we begin to lose our individual choice. Being penalized for making a choice about self, deciding our own fate as you say, is not freedom. I used sugar and salt as an extreme case before, but really look at it. They have negative side affects, they cause serious health problems, and try asking someone with a horrible diet of 10 plus years to change their ways, pretty impossible. Based upon this, and according to your stance, shouldn't these substances have legislation created to regulate them? Whether or not they have been legal or illegal in the past is irrelevant. And really, Marijuana has only been illegal in Japan for about 60 years. In a country with a culture thousands of years old, 60 years is a very short time. And why stop at substances, how about activities? Like watching t.v.? Sitting in front a t.v. 6 to 8 hours a day can cause obesity, can limit the mind from growing, again negative side affects, so let's regulate how much t.v people are allowed to watch. Obviously these are extreme cases, but that is what your stance is really about, telling people what they can and can't do with their own lives, removing the greatest individual tenant - choice. Getting back to the more specific argument of marijuana and addiction, again that is based on the individual, you just can't make a blanket statement that anyone 10 plus years can't quit. I use myself as an example. I used marijuana from about the age of 19 until age 35, 16 years. I have been living in Japan for 3 years, I don't smoke anymore (combination of being afraid of the strict laws and no real contacts). But it was quite easy to give up. Not that everyone can do this, but some people can. Addiction is a personality issue, and a person who is an addict of anything will always find substitute addictions. How many of those US rehab center guests leave there smoking and drinking coffee, ever been to an AA meeting? How does legalizing a plant not protect an individual's freedom of choice?

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I'm not a pot head or a drug addict , it's not my cup of tea but I say Legalize Marijuana! not just Marijuana even other drugs as well, the reason why there are lot's of crimes about it is because its illegal, but if we could just try to legalize everything there will be no crime! I used to believe that Drugs are addictive and once you've tried it ,you wont be able to control it and you will become crazy , but I was wrong! My Father was a drug addict from college till 1998, before when I was born he was already regularly using drugs , but I didnt know it and I didnt have even a single clue till my mother told me the truth when I was 20 years old, He was also using marijuana, and he is so normal as other father in fact so calm and a great father to us compare to other non drug user men, and our family was so happy, he didnt even hurt my mom even once, Some people can handle it properly and some people can't, but isnt that the same thing as alcohol??? or even with normal life?? some people can go crazy and some people knows how to handle it, I think drugs are like alcohol, some people can handle it and still be normal and some people can go wild and kill somebody if they dont know how to handle it properly! most of my dad's friends were drug addicts and marijuana users but they got high position jobs and living a peaceful life compare to other normal people... Legalise marijuana and drugs so that these syndicates will lose their jobs as well!

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"It seems bizarre that one curious neighbor could land us in jail, possibly for years. We’re criminals, every one of us — relaxed, giggling, happy criminals."

So, how long until the author of this story gets arrested? Any bets?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Anyone know when the next 420 march in Tokyo is? I don't think there is an increase of smokers but rather an increase of police searching for users. I was asked to show the contents of my bag and pockets the other day on the streets, The police were looking for smokers (I assume). But I refused a search. I don't know the Laws here but I don't think they have a right to search anyone randomly. After 30 minutes of arguing with by now 5 police officers, they just let me walk away. Not that I had anything on me, but nice to know that you can refuse a search.

Japan needs to realize the difference between hard and soft drugs and prosecute accordingly. it used to be legal to smoke here.....

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I am pretty excited maybe in the future we will have 3 sections in restaurants and coffee shops, 1) No Smoking area 2) smoking non marijuana area 3) smoking marijuana area.... ;-P

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I am afraid science has very little to do with it.

To counter your argument I have a friend who was a complete stoner in college and now holds a management position in large global corporation.

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An email sent to Waseda students thundered that marijuana smokers “all too often end up physically and mentally ruined, perhaps leading lives of crime.”

What a joke.

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perhaps leading lives of crime

this is possibly true. but only if you prosecute and label young people guilty of what is at worst a questionable, victimless misdemeanour by entirely disenfranchising them from the mainstream job market or worse send them to criminal training camp (otherwise known as the prison system)

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Legalize it!

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I do not want to come across at patronising to this wonderful country, but don't you sometimes want to go up to Japan and ruffle its hair and give it a biscuit for trying so hard?

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Those who say the Japanese aren't burdened by so-called "judeo-christian" puritanism are proven wrong when it comes to drugs. The urge to control people's private lives can be just as strong here as in places where people believe the creator of the universe cares how we eat, dress, or perform sexual congress. Activities which produce no victims should not be crimes.

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nisegaijin - science has a lot to do with it, and it is correct there is a lot more to it then just science. Science and social research just happen to show strong evidence that marijuana use has hurt society. Nobody is saying that you cannot be successful when smoking pot in regard to the friend that WAS a "complete stoner". Would he be a manager if her were still a complete stoner? In my first post I state that there are those people who can mediate their intake of marijuana. I submit that governments who find that there are those who cannot mediate and "cause harm to others" decide that this is enough to control the substance to keep it out of society.

jonnydesu - Those are some awesome questions, and I really enjoy your candor in this discussion! Who decides what is good or bad for us? We both agree that the individual has the ultimate decision with this. What are laws and legislations for? In your earlier post you suggest that the government and laws are there to protect the individual. So how do we get laws? Legislators who are chosen by representatives (that the people vote on) make these laws. So the laws are decided on by the people. And we're back to the majority issue. The people elect representatives so that there is a voice representing them and to protect them. When the research (done by government, universities, independent organizations what have you) shows evidence that marijuana abuse grossly injures society, why wouldn't the government that the people elected make laws to protect them from it? The government already makes laws and has made laws in regard to what is good or bad for society (i.e. Murder is illegal). I agree with you that the sugar and salt example is extreme, because I know that the body needs both in some form to function properly. It however does not need marijuana. It doesn't need TV either, yet the government encourages individuals to go out and exercise. The government needs TV though to make sure the people are informed. The NHK fees are for a different discussion though :).

I think it's great that you have given up marijuana. It's very difficult for many people to do that as you admit. Now that you have disclosed yourself as a prior smoker of marijuana, the question is that if you found a regular contact to obtain the stuff, would you start up again? Or would you be able to decline because it is against the law? What if it were legalized? Would you decline it even though you have been marijuana free for 3 whole years? You are speaking from personal experience, but can you speak for those who are true addicts? I say that the population who are true addicts to marijuana have made it so the government has put strict controls on the stuff.

There are pro marijuana sites that teach a potential user how to avoid addiction and still use it, but with the warning that "If you think you will have a problem using it" to not use it at all and to "think before you do it."


Why do you think they say this? Because for every person that claims they are a responsible smoker, there is somebody who is not and "ruins" it for the rest of those who have control, and causes serious harm to society. They know that overuse of marijuana leads to serious social problems, which catches the eye of the government, and they want to prove that the drug is harmless and say that "it depends on the personality" of the individual whether or not they will have behavioral issues. Those with the behavioral issues have been shown to go on to other serious addictions when marijuana isn't enough, ergo giving credence to the claim that marijuana is a sort of "gateway drug". Again I say that the sugar and salt example is extreme, but I will go down that road with you and the other direction of the extreme and say that if marijuana were legalized, what's to stop the next group of people saying that X drug should be legalized? Then we are at the same debate again. The line has to be drawn somewhere. Why not start with a substance that has been proven with research to cause serious damage to society. Maybe not in your circle, but the facts are there. (Did anyone even read the research report posted earlier? Here it is again: http://www.nida.nih.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/Marijuana4.html ) There is a post in this very discussion by space monkey that a serious psychological condition were associated with marijuana use, and the very next two posts are by individuals who express sympathy, and then quickly brush off the notion that it had anything to do with marijuana.

How does legalizing a plant not protect an individual's freedom of choice?

That's kind of a loaded question because marijuana is not just any mere plant. You started smoking it from age 19, something made you want to continue it for 16 years. You can't just lower the status of marijuana to just a "plant" then raise sugar and salt to the level of social menace in the same discussion. For those who are truly addicted to marijuana, they have limited their own freedom by not being able to easily quit. And even if they do, they may go on to another addiction as you state. Legalizing marijuana would put more into the hands of potential addicts with serious problems.

Addiction = not protecting an individual's freedom of choice.

And no, I can happily say I have never been to an AA meeting. :)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Less people die from "Marijuana induced violence" or "marijuana induced illnesses" than do from tobacco or booze related ones, I'll wager. The J government should be as tolerant of the former as it is of the latter two.

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A lot of these comments are true, but in our lifetimes pot will not be legalized.

Holland for example has halfed the homicide rate by legalizing murder, in their famous murder cafes. The same should be done with pot

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"Those who say the Japanese aren't burdened by so-called "judeo-christian" puritanism are proven wrong when it comes to drugs."

Maybe it goes back to the Opium Wars in China, and the bad things that happened there. Drugs got kind of a bad reputation in Asia.

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Pot has never been a part of Japan, and to think it will integrate well...well... it won't. I think a Japan without Pot is a better society. People who get caught with smoking it should get jailed and fined accordingly, longer than a week but a few weeks if possible.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

urufuls -

I think you are one of the few posters that are anti-legalization that make any valid points. You have done your research, and have a well balanced argument. I just have a few more counters, and then I think it will be time to put this issue to bed for a bit.

To clarify my position on the need for laws, I believe they should be created to protect the individual from harm by others, not from harm by oneself. Drug laws are truly about keeping the choice away from the self, which is not the true purpose of law. I think this is where my argument is ultimately leading to. Yes, what about drug "x", if marijuana becomes legal, why not all drugs. I think many of the pro-posters out there might draw a line at pot, and say cocaine and heroine are not to be legalized. I disagree, all drugs should be legal, and allowed to be governed by the individual. However, with that said, as I stated before, the individual should also take full responsibility for their actions. If they decide to use a drug, become addicted, and let their lives crumble apart, they should not expect anyone, including the government, to bail them out. That is where I feel the hypocrisy lies with most pro-legalizers. When the drug is used and a positive experience happens out of it, it is because the individual, but when something negative happens, they blame the drug. When I used marijuana, I never blamed it for any of my shortcomings, nor did I contribute any of my successes to it, that was my own will at work. I have experimented with many other drugs, some which I couldn't handle or disliked the affects, thus I never did them again. I'm sure there are many people out there with the same experience as me, and I'm sure there are many people who caused great pain to themselves, but that is the beauty of having choice. To be regulated and molded into a clone for the benefit of the majority is the worst evil out there. It would be too difficult at this point of society to just change the laws and allow the individual complete freedom, especially with drugs, but we need to start moving toward laws that don't punish for self inflicted pain, or bliss if you are lucky. To answer your question would I use again, well, if it was legalized, sure I would. But not because I am an addict. I don't need it to function. It is just an enjoyable thing to me, like having a nice glass of wine or scotch. I don't think I would use it as often as I did in the US, because the people that I associate with don't use it and for me it is a very social thing to do. I look forward to your next reply, and say thanks in advance for the discussion. Curious to see what the next big debate will be.

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Get this all you debating folks.

The Economist Magazine, one of the top international weekly business & news magazines in the world, (one of my favorites too, for may years) recently devoted their cover to the issue of drugs. Here is what they had to say in their the March 3, 2009 issue.

"The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.

“Least bad” does not mean good. Legalisation, though clearly better for producer countries, would bring (different) risks to consumer countries. As we outline below, many vulnerable drug-takers would suffer. But in our view, more would gain."

They go on to say many more interesting things. Check it out.

"The failure of the drug war has led a few of its braver generals, especially from Europe and Latin America, to suggest shifting the focus from locking up people to public health and “harm reduction”

And more...

"There are two main reasons for arguing that prohibition should be scrapped all the same. The first is one of liberal principle. Although some illegal drugs are extremely dangerous to some people, most are not especially harmful. (Tobacco is more addictive than virtually all of them.) Most consumers of illegal drugs, including cocaine and even heroin, take them only occasionally. They do so because they derive enjoyment from them (as they do from whisky or a Marlboro Light). It is not the state’s job to stop them from doing so.

What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.

By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope."

What more can I add?

Comments please.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Drugs are not good, Full stop. But they are with us and they have always been with us. They are more of a problem now than ever before yet anti-drug laws are relatively new (20th century). Perhaps the question we should ask is, why?

But I digress. Drugs are bad but people will do them. I myself smoke and drink (both are drugs, don't kid yourself). I used to smoke pot but don't anymore. I'm not against it, just doing what the Romans do.

Now on the subject, locking people up who put trash in their bodies will do nothing, NOTHING. It didn't work in the 1920-30s in America and it won't work now. Granted pot is NOT safe (you can't overdose, but it can cause cancer) and yes, it is less harmful than (cough, cough) tobacco, but all this is not the point.

The point is why, in only the last 100 years (in all of history) have laws been passed on how we poison ourselves? And why are people who (maybe foolishly) do so treated as murderers or rapists? People forget this is very recent.

I legalize all of it and put in under government control. Hell, the new Kanagawa smoking law has worked well on me, can't smoke at stations, can't smoke on the street, I've pretty much quartered what I smoked and I must say, I'm annoyed and grateful at the same time.

Pot legalized would mean age limits, tax, tough laws as to were to smoke it and how much a person should be allowed to carry. Those right wing Christians who harp on about "legalizing pot will hurt the children" are DEAD wrong. If anything, it will help keep it out of the hands of children (unless they are as lax as they are in Japan with tobacco).

And again, why do so many people now take drugs (including alcohol and tobacco). This is the question we really need to be asking.

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The false information (lies) spread in the media are sickening.

It's all about education and we the people know the truth. Decriminalization is a good first step - rather than outright legalization - because it can be controlled better. Sudden legalization is not only impossible but could lead to problems such as the market being flooded with poor quality/chemicalized weed. Just look at tobacco.

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Well, I don't know about you, but I'm off to Hokkaido again this summer to go camping. Really good weed grows really wild, and not a cop for miles...

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Canada has legalized growing, possession, and use of pot for health reasons. Individuals can easily apply for and receive a license from Health Canada. A majority of Canadians now believe it should be legalized or decriminalized for personal recreational use. I'm for legalization and I'm not even interested in smoking it. It simply makes more sense that keeping it illegal.

Japan, wake up! The longer it's criminalized, the sooner your underworld will take up the cause. Look what's happening to Mexico to see the true ugliness of drug prohibition in action.

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alcohol and tobacco are just as destructive if not more- for example this year 435,000 americans and 121,000 Japanese will die from Tobacco related diseases. In the US 75,000 people will die from alcohol probably higher in Japan since genetically Asians cannot handle their liqueur as well. this is well documented- some kind of missing gene coding that processes the alcohol- the Asian Flush syndrome.

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